Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Early Life Crisis

I've been thinking a lot lately about my future.

I am currently in my final year at university and subsequently I have a set of paths that I could follow come June when my time at Reading comes to an end.

Path number one is routine. It's normal. It's fairly bog standard. It would be the easiest route to take. Path one involves me getting a regular job, either on a graduate scheme or otherwise. I've begun applying for many graduate jobs and whilst the temptation of earning £25,000 a year plus is appealing, it isn't exactly the life I hope to lead. In a nutshell, I'd be 'selling-out' were I to take on a full-time, bog-standard job post-university.

Path number two is risky. It's potentially going to break me in a monetary sense. It's my dream though. This dream is to try and break into the media. A career in journalism, writing or anything in that ballpark is what really gets me going, it is the great hope I hold. My week long work experience at ShortList magazine taught me that this is the type of job I'd love to have, but it comes with two difficulties. It doesn't pay well, whilst it will be fairly difficult to break into.

Path number three is the back-up. It's the average option. It's not exactly exciting though. This path involves doing a masters degree. Ideally, I'd like to do a year long masters in Journalism, but again this comes with two drawbacks. I'd be fully committing to wanting to break into the media, whilst a masters costs a hell of a lot of money. My main motivation for studying for one more year would be due to the desirable lifestyle of being a student.

There we are. This is my life dilemma. The worst thing is that it is a pretty huge call that I will have to make. To make matters worse, I have only around four months left to make the call and I'm still very much in the dark.

Follow me on Twitter @Alex_Harris1991

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The ShortList Magazine Work Experience

Where have you been? What have you been doing? Why haven't you been updating the blog?

One question at a time, please guys. I've been busy, very busy. Well, I say very busy, I mean I haven't been busy every single waking minute of the past month but you get the idea.

University finished for the term and I headed back home. After doing some christmas shopping, going to see Kele live and going to my cousin's christening, I spent the week on work experience at ShortList magazine. If you haven't heard of ShortList then that is likely for two reasons, either you aren't a man or you don't live near London.

So, I had to get up every day at around 7 o'clock, a time I hadn't seen for many, many years then head to the train station and make my way to Holborn. Despite staying clear of any illness at university, I picked up man flu on the first day thanks to the many ill and weak people on the tube.

I worked out today that the amount of time I worked would have equated to around £240 on minimum wage. As I sit here writing this, I have to say I really want £240.

However, on the positive side, it was a really insightful week that made me realise that a career in the media would make me happy. Also, I will soon be a published writer, whilst I got to spend one afternoon just looking at pictures of half-naked women. It was a win-win.

There we are, thank you ShortList for the work experience and thank you Holborn McDonalds for keeping me fed all week.

Follow me on Twitter @Alex_Harris1991

I've also started my own YouTube channelwhy not subscribe?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Scratch Cards

I believe it is in my destiny to win big money. Somehow. Somewhere. Sometime. I expect to win this large amount that will allow me to fulfill my two basic wants at the moment, a car and a MacBook Pro.

To those of you who will respond, get a job! I can tell you that as I'm in my final year of university, that would be foolish. And silly. Plus, quite frankly, I haven't got the time.

However, I do think it's a little strange to expect to win money, yet I just think I will. Therefore, I seem to be buying scratch cards on the odd occasion and I recently had a big win. I won £1.

I never liked scratch cards. They always struck me as cheap and tacky. The novelty value of scratching off the weird protective layer soon comes off, if you pardon the pun. Also, it always feels like being the taboo, dirty product for a gambler to buy. It strikes me as being the equivalent of a drinker going into a Sainsburys and leaving with a bottle of their own vodka.

Yet, I find myself buying these very things. Maybe it's time I re-started playing the lottery?

Follow me on Twitter @Alex_Harris1991

I've also started my own YouTube channelwhy not subscribe?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Positive Thought

So, my idea to follow Danny Wallace in his Yes Man philosophy was a relative success. I definetly did more things and got up to new adventures, however, I was merely copying an idea that has already been done. Though, would I say yes more in the future? Without doubt.

After a night out on Wednesday, I came up with an idea that I think can surely lead me to being a more positive person. Essentially, from Monday onwards, for a period of one week, I will attempt to not utter one negative comment.

Sure, it's ambitious. Will it be possible? Quite possibly not but one can only try.

Why do I feel I have to be more positive? Well, I've been writing in my graduate job applications that I am a positive, people person so to prove I'm not lying, I'm going to have to be positive.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Casino

After just a day, it had become normal to say yes to everything. It's only a challenge though to say yes to something when you've got a lot on or if the question or request is particularly challenging.

However, on Monday evening after cooking a particularly brilliant lasagne, my housemate, Nick, suggested going to see to the cinema. We ended up going to see the new Johnny English film and it was quite funny and well worth the money. It was upon leaving the cinema though that we followed up on an idea that Nick had earlier mused that we go to the casino afterwards.

So we entered the realm of financial uncertainly. The casino is a place I have only frequented in Reading. I dare not venture into a casino outside of Reading. It is safe. It is a second home. It is comfortable. Well, as safe, homely and comfortable that a casino can be.

Nick won fairly big. I didn't. I lost £20. £20 of what is technically my Mum's hard earned money. I effectively just wasted two hours of her working life. On a moral level, I felt like a nasty piece of work. It was the equivalent of stealing the neighbour's dog and then handing them back the dead corpse.

The next day, after attending my debut Ultimate Frisbee training session, I went out with Nick and a few of his friends to the new club in town, Lola Lo. It isn't the greatest club that Reading has ever seen. The fact it took about 45 minutes to get a drink indicates this point quite well. However, we rounded the night off by going to the casino with two politics course mates.

The beauty of this casino is that you can buy food and get the bill back in chip form. So, after all having steak, we gambled away to varying degrees of success. Luckily, I managed to break even, however, I was still angered at my previous day loss.

Wednesday soon approached and we were in town again. After a very random McDonalds, we were walking past our now regular hotspot in Reading. The casino was standing there, proud and tall. We walked past the casino and looked at each other. We both knew we wanted to go in. It felt wrong, but it really felt oh so right.

We walked in and soon a sign seemed to be there. A sign that the casino gods wanted us to win. All we had to do for a free £5 chip was to 'Like' their page on Facebook. Easy. £5 chip please. We marched upstairs and won big. Well I say big, for me, just to win felt fantastic. I won £30 and had cleared that £20 loss from Monday.

We left and my conscience over losing that money on Monday had cleared, even though I felt very dirty for visiting the casino three days in a row.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Yes Philosophy

You're probably wondering about the lack of posts recently. Well, I've moved back to University into my new house with my new housemates but there's one small snag. We haven't sorted out the Internet yet. Or the tv come to think of it.

Now, there's always been something I've wanted to do and I realised today after spending yesturday night home alone as I was ill I got really bored. I woke up this morning after a lenghty sleep and decided it was time to do what I have always wanted.

Anyone who knows me or follows this blog will know I'm a fan of Danny Wallace. You see, I want to follow what he did in Yes Man and say yes to everything. It seems like the right time.

Here's the deal. I've decided that I'm going to set the time frame to be two weeks. That's right two weeks of relentless usage of the word yes.

You'll be glad to know that Day 1 was already a partial success. I decided to head to the library and I ended up saying yes to entering a writing competition for the newspaper i. From there I ended up going to dinner with a housemate and a few of his friends and it culminated in going to a house party, although that wasn't the greatest event ever.

Anyway, I shall report back in two weeks. In the meantime, I'm off to Dublin on Friday and I'm sure I'll have a story to tell from that.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The German Girl

Michael, Alex and I have just walked back into the pub that we had only just left 30 seconds earlier. We have just recieved notice from Becky that she and a couple of her friends were on their way to the pub that we had just walked out of. So, as I said, we headed straight back in.

We had been on a pub crawl starting in Berrylands, passing through the Coronation Hall in Surbiton and then we found our way to the King's Tun in Kingston. We had a great booth in the pub and had just dusted off a jug of Blue Lagoon and Cheeky V between us, yet by the time we walked back in there was suddenly limited seating and we had to settle for a window table. A very cramped window table, in fact.

Eventually, Becky, Tina and a German friend of Becky's called Sophia joined us. Tina had to leave almost straight away, so we were soon down to the five of us. Suddenly, I was left with Sophia. Becky and Alex had gone to the bar, whilst Michael decided that now was an appropriate time to go to the loo. I decided to put Sophia at ease with a fantastic conversation starter, "Don't worry, I won't make any jokes about the war". On reflection, that doesn't seem to be the best line I could have opened with.

I then went through the usual pleasentries you exchange with a new person. I found out she was from Cologne, I still think that is a strange name for a city. Well, at least it must smell nice. I discovered she knew Becky threw a relation to her knowing Becky's mum. She was on a gap year before starting University. I learnt that she liked Angela Merkel. I even had a brief conversation on German football, detailing all from Lukas Podolski to Borrusia Dortmund.

Michael soon returned and after he and Sophia ran through a pretty similar conversation we had just had. The fool. Sophia must have felt he was a mere copy of myself and that he took all his conversational wizardry from myself. I then managed to make my next blunder though.

"So, was the ball over the line then in the World Cup final?" Why had I just asked this. It is well known that the Germans are still sore over that goal. She responded by saying that "Yeah, I don't think the ball was over the line". I then went to Michael for his thoughts on this historical classic, yet I'm not sure he quite knew what goal we were talking about though in his English pride, he felt that the ball was over the line.

I decided it was probably best to quieten down a bit. Yet, I ignored the rational part of my brain and decided to try and speak German. Now, I studied German all the way from Year 7 to Year 11 at school and I was good at it. Very good, in fact. I gained an A Grade at GCSE level. Quite the achievement I'll have you know. It's been a long time, however, since I last had a conversation in German and I was unsuprisingly terrible. Sophia must have thought I was mocking her even more. This really was going badly.

The table conversation soon moved onto music after Michael brought up the fact that I had asked Sophia whether they have "Western music in Germany?" Everyone laughed. I cringed. Why had I said that? I then remembered the quite terrible band I had listened to in a German lesson many moons ago. They are called Wir Sind Helden and I spoke in such depth about them that I get the feeling I may have come across as Wir Sind Helden's number one fanboy.

Soon Michael corrected my grammar. This brought out an almost instinctive reaction in me that I really shouldn't have said. "Grammar Nazi!" I fired back at Michael. Oh God. I just said the N-word in front of a German person. Had she heard? Well, I didn't exactly matter as I was cringing. Then I managed to make things worse. Much worse.

Now, the day before, a friend of ours did a Nazi salute in a pub. I don't think he quite understood what he was doing and he was most certainly joking. I know for a fact that he is joking because I have not seen an ounce of Nazi paraphernalia in his house. However, I seemed to think that Sophia would see this a witty, hilarious anecdote that she would tell all her friends back in Germany. She seemed shocked. I'm pretty sure I even heard gasps around the table. She uttered back, in a broken tone, "Oh...OK..."

She soon went home when we left the pub for another venue and Alex told me that I had come across as a Nazi sympathiser. I would like to stress that I am not though. I have quite a dislike for what they did and stood for. Plus, Hitler isn't exactly my favourite historical figure.

The next day after completing the pub quiz, we all went to McDonalds to get some food. Becky, Sophia and Alex remained in the car whilst Michael and I went instore to order. As we only had an order from Becky for a cheeseburger, I decided to pick up a few. I hastily paid. We offered Sophia a cheeseburger and she accepted. She went to get her £1 to reimburse my slightly worse off wallet, however, I declined her pound and told her "Don't worry" about paying.

Hopefully that cheeseburger will have slightly improved Anglo-Germanic relations.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Charity Case

It's 3:30PM on a balmy Friday afternoon. Philip and I are in Kingston for our second time today. Now before you ask why, I will say that we aren't wildly in love with our hometown. No, you see we are here to film for our debut video for our YouTube channel.

We reach the section of the High Street by the Bentalls Centre and then we are approached by a man in a blue top. I could tell he was one of those people who pound the streets trying to get citizens to give money to charity. I had two reasons to believe this. First, I have previously been lured in by these people and ended up giving money to a charity. Second, he was wearing a Battersea Dogs and Cats Home T-shirt and he was holding a clip board.

"Oh wow cool camera" said the man, who we got to quickly know as Waleed. I could tell he was good at his job. His opening gambit was impressive. Philip was drawn in by this conversation wizard, the fool. Philip and Waleed then proceeded to discuss cameras and the fact Philip wanted to be a film director despite the fact he is studying geography at University. Waleed certainly had his game face on. He had struck quickly and found Philip to be easy prey. Someone he felt he could get to sign up to charity, quite possibly because he was walking around a Greater London borough with a video camera nonchalantly in hand.

 Waleed then posed a question that rapidly drew the conversation round to his advantage. "Do either of you like dogs or cats?" This was a tricky situation. It would appear rude to say I hated dogs and cats in front of someone on behalf of the premiere dog and cat charity in the country, yet I didn't want to lie to Waleed. I responded with a casual "I only like declawed cats". As I said, casual. Philip though said he prefered cats, he clearly felt it important to appeal to Waleed's cat side, even though Waleed told us straight after that he wasn't exactly a fan of either even though he had a dog. At least I had offered a semi-humorous response.

When Waleed went in for the kill to see if either of us would pay £2.10 a week to help the charity, I instantly went on the defensive. "I don't think I'd be able to afford it as I already give £5 a month to Unicef", plus let's be honest, £2.10 is the price of a pint of lager. As a student, I need to think about my lager based finance before agreeing to fund the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Waleed then turned to Philip to see if he would stump up the noble fund in the name of innocent dogs and cats around the country.

It was at this point that I knew Philip wouldn't stump up the cash yet I felt it best to help Waleed. At the age of 18, he was already the Head of Direct Marketing. He had already achieved adulthood despite being two years younger than me. Philip then feigned a phone call, yet the minute that had ended we both decided to work on Philip to get him to save the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. It's not often a man can say he saved an age old charity and pilar of British life. Yet Philip didn't seem to want to take up this opportunity.

He posited to Waleed that he didn't want to give out his card details to a man in the street. This is a relatively sound point, yet Waleed assured Philip that the information he needed was still not enough for anyone bar a registered charity to break into his account. This didn't seem to convince my friend though. Then, within a flash, our friend David had turned up and it soon began to become a 3 on 1 situation. Waleed, David and I were all ganging up on Philip to get him to donate to charity.

Philip, however, reiterated his paranoia in having his credit card hacked into by giving out his details on the street despite the fact it is far more risky to give out your details on the internet in order to purchase products. He still wouldn't hand over the two small details that could allow the charity to take a weekly £2.10 from his account, two details that wouldn't be enough for Joe Bloggs to hack into his account. I assured Philip that I had given out my details on the street to Unicef before and that all was fine. He still woudn't pass over his details though.

After much discussion and probably wasting Waleed's precious time, we walked away. We had failed. Philip didn't buckle under the pressure and refused to give to charity. As much as it dissapointed me that he didn't want to give to charity, I could only admire his sheer stubborn quality in sticking to his guns. I guess you can call that an adult quality.

We then went back to Philip's house to edit our video and it was then that Philip offered us a more startling revelation. He told us his Dad didn't trust wireless internet because "anyone can hack in" despite the fact that you can security protect your network by using a password.

Suddenly, his worry that his credit card could be accessed illegally by someone due to giving out just two details to a licensed charity worker seemed a hell of a lot more sane and a lot less paranoid.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Bad Day at Work

Recently, I have been thinking that it is time to grow up. It's time to become more of an adult. It's time to act like a mature 20 year old.

This has largely been due to the fact that I have had a fair number of conversations with different friends about the future and the big issue of what to do post-University. They have been interesting, revealing and life-changing conversations. Conversations that have had a profound impact.

Essentially, my main problem is that I only really have my long-term aims in life. I'd love to be a writer and I'd like to dabble in radio presenting and also politics. However, there seems to be a stepping stone missing as I really lack the short-term aims. I had no plan post-University.

However, that has all changed thank to these conversations. I have now a plan in place, something that I will actively pursue in the short-term. It's a basic plan. It's very simple. It's a plan consisting of only four word's. Get a graduate job.

In essence then, this has been my last summer of total freedom. The last chance I will ever have to control my life over a period of up to three months. Except, I haven't got total control at the minute. You see, my parent's both work at the same hospital in different departments yet they are both on holiday at the moment. Whenever my Dad or his assistant are unable to make work, I fill in. It pays suprisingly well.

My parent's offered me the choice to come on holiday with them, however, I felt it best they had a whole week to themselves and I felt it best to probably earn some money and prove my work ethic by filling in for my Dad whilst he was away enjoying a well earned break.

The first day in the job was easy. It was stuff I had done before whilst helping my Dad out. Now, whenever I work with my Dad I enjoy making his day that little more entertaining/stressful by mucking about and having a laugh. However, as I was working with my Dad's assistant, I decided it best to try my hardest and not muck around. I tried my best, or at least I felt I did.

Then I turned up today after getting stuck in the worst traffic to ever hit New Malden and ended up getting what I will term as bullied. It turns out I made two small mistakes in orders, I gave one ward three plasters by accident instead of three boxes and in my morning haze I had, by mistake, given the cleaners on one small ward 30 individual hand towels instead of a 30 packs of hand towels. Two mistakes that would only take one minute to rectify yet caused "great stress" according to my Dad's assistant. I apologised for my mistake. Only a nice person would do this.

Then she carried on this bizarre tirade at me, in front of one of the cleaners. I had left at 2:15PM after being told by my Dad before hand that I only had to work between 8AM and 1PM, generally people only work the times they are told. I had worked an extra hour and a bit, I felt this to be very noble of me. Coral, Dad's assistant, asked if I wanted to go for lunch at 2 and I told her "Oh, but Dad said I could leave at 1PM" to which she said "Oh, ok then". I even made sure later that I asked her if it was fine with her if I could go, to which she replied "Yeah OK". She then claimed today that she didn't want me to go, to which I thought "Well you could have said...."

She then went on to insinuate that I had a bad relationship with my Dad purely because I said he probably wasn't the best person to ask about my future career plans, she attacked my supposed lack of work ethic based purely on something my Dad had said to her and put two and two together and claimed my moral stance against the idea of private hospitals made me purposely screw up the orders.

I then proceeded to waffle on about politics and spent the rest of the day ignoring her as best as I could and doing the best job I could, mostly to hopefully help my Dad have a less stressful week at work next week.

I was then told by Coral in a sarcastic manner that "I guess you want to go home" at 1PM and I left and told my sister, who also works at this hospital, that I would pick her up later. I felt it important to negate this woman's cynicism and hateful attitude by being as nice as I could to every person I could. I drove at the correct pace. I stopped to let every person cross the road. I stopped to let every car get out of side roads and into the main road. I even bade a "good afternoon" to the owner of our local cornershop and opened the door for her whilst she moved the newspapers from the stand outside to the inside of the shop itself.

I felt good for this. I felt I had hopefully made the world a better place for these people with my small, nice gestures and that made me smile.

Oh, and Coral is such a stupid name.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Shirt

"Loose, footloose, kick off your Sunday shoes!" I sing at the top of my voice.

Nope, I'm not just singing the classic Kenny Loggins song in a sudden burst of 1980's infused craziness. No, for I am in a nightclub. Not just any nightclub, I'm in the cheese room at Oceana and I'm ever so slightly tipsy.

I am having a great time and I'm surrounded by friends and there is a lovely warmth in the feeling of the evening, something I can assure you is difficult to achieve at Oceana on a Wednesday night.

The DJ continues to play some terrible songs from the 80's that we all secretly like. Although, based on the fact we are all singing and dancing along means it isn't exactly secret anymore.

Unlike most of the other people here wearing t-shirts, I decided to go for the classy look and wear a shirt. However, this is not just any shirt. It's a shirt I had only recently purchased from Hollister that looks and feels brilliant. It was suddenly my favourite shirt. I feel like I want to go to the DJ booth and grab the microphone and say "Fellow reverllers, as you can see I am a man of impeccable taste based on my shirt, now bow down before me!" Though, I realise this would probably result in a beating so I continue dancing and singing in a merry manner with my friends.

Then it happens. The worst thing that could happen right here, right now. I see another man wearing the same shirt. "Who is this shirt challenger?" I think, "Who is this man who thinks he can break the unspoken social rules of wearing the same shirt?"

Then it gets worse. He and his friends come and dance near our group. I suddenly felt very awkward. I had the feeling there was the odd person seeing this situation and mocking. However, what do I do? Do I hold my nerve and stand my ground or do I do depart?

So, in the most unconvincing way ever, I try to dance my way to the bar ever so slowly in the hope the same-shirt man won't witness my cowardly act. Then his group seem to gradually follow. Bugger.

I trudge off to the bar quickly and order myself another Stella Artois. I stand by the bar feeling stupid and rueing the man who wore the same shirt as me.

I have yet to wear the shirt since.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The World of Topshop

It's a typical Saturday morning. I'm sitting in my chair, reading The Sun, watching Soccer AM and eating my breakfast. Multi-tasking at its finest, I think you'll agree. I had my phone on charge up in my bedroom and I went upstairs to go to the loo. I thought I may as well check my phone to see if it has charged. It had. Success. An early morning task completed.

I noticed I had recieved a text. A text inviting me somewhere. It was from my friend Alex. It read, 'Do you want to come to town to meet me becky and rice at like 1 to 1:30 ish??'. As any good friend and reader of the classic Danny Wallace book Yes Man, I decided I only had one answer. Yes.

Now, here's an interesting sub-plot. It's also my parent's anniversary. Their 28th to be precise. My sisters weren't in at this time and weren't coming back all day so my parent's weren't exactly dissapointed I was going out. If you can read between the lines, that is a sentance I never wished to write.

So I had arranged to meet Alex by the roundabout. It's a well known place in Berrylands. It's almost as renowned as the pub. However, he was late. His mum was giving us a lift into Kingston, yet an apparent trip to petrol station was taking longer than expected.

I had been sitting, waiting for an age and then some lady proved that women drivers are in fact rubbish. Of all the parking places, she decided to park right by where I was sitting. The cheek. How dare this lady play mind games with me? How dare she take over my land? I thought I should stay strong and remain where I was. I had to win the battle of minds for men all over the world united against women drivers. I got up and called my friend. He informed me he was nearly here. I had lost the battle of the wills against the lady. She walked off to the park knowing she had won.

Suddenly, a massive group of OAP cyclists flocked through the park and round the roundabout. I had never seen such a thing. This day was starting to become rather odd.

We eventually arrived in Kingston and we met up with Becky. We went to Topman to buy one so Becky could buy a girl friend some socks. Yes, I did say Topman. It's odd how women can get away with wearing mens clothes, yet it's considered strange how men can't wear womens clothes. Although I guess it is odd to see a man wearing female clothes. Anyway, we soon went to Topshop in search of these socks and then it began.

As any man will know, it is a frightening experience entering a female fashion store. Especially one without a male fashion section. I've been to these female fashion stores before with my mum but I always knew that as long as I stuck by her side and I didn't complain about being in the shop then my mum would happily go to shops that I would like to go too.

However, we soon got trapped. Becky had thundered around the shop at a lightening pace. We, though, were stuck. Trapped. Cornered in a small area of the shop surrounded by hundreds of female shoppers and dummies. As far as I could see we were the only men in there. We must have looked creepy and strange. Women will have wondered what we were doing there. They were probably whispering and pointing at us.

Luckily we soon escaped what was fast becoming hell and caught up with Becky and went to the top floor. It was here where the men were. The men who were there for their women. Their female friends, wives, girlfriends, daughters. The whole male spectrum was here and they all looked equally fed up and petrified. One man was carrying his girlfriend's bag, one was following like a depressed sheep and another was merely standing at the side. He looked especially trapped and lost in this world for high street female fashion. I wanted to nod to the man to give him the 'I-feel-your-pain' look but if I had I suspected he would have been even more distressed.

We eventually made it to the male safe haven of HMV. I was looking for Ninja Assassin, but another soon caught my eye. Ninja Cheerleaders. It sounds brilliant. It has ninjas who are cheerleaders and they must compete in a strip competition to gain some much needed cash. It seems like a film that is probably worthy of an Oscar. It only had one downside. It was £12. However, I've found a copy on for £5 and I plan to buy it soon. If you're lucky I might even give you a detailed review of the film.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Illness

I am writing this blog whilst there is something very rare occuring within me. You see, I am ill. I'll give you a minute to take in that revelation.

This is rare. Very rare. Perhaps, even a new phenomenon. I pride myself on my rarely succumbing to illness. I could probably win awards for this talent. People would probably come far and wide to marvel at my inability to fall ill. Sure, I get the odd cold, but who doesn't?

The symptons are strange too. Aching legs, a mild fever and a very sore throat. I only get aching legs are running or cycling long distances but I certainly hadn't done that recently. I can't recall ever having a fever, though I will admit to having the odd sore throat. Yet, this feels like a killer sore throat. The type of sore throat that could only be acquired through eating a lot of sand. And glass. And gravel. I don't remember eating any of those.

I even felt on the verge of throwing up. I can't tell you how worried I was at this point. I hate throwing up. It actually terrifies me. I would say though that I'm not as terrified about throwing up when I'm drunk but I still can't pinpoint why that is... I honestly can't locate the date, let alone the year, I last threw up when not caused by alcohol.

As you might recall from the last post, I went to the Midlands at the weekend to see my Grandma. Seeing as the symptoms for my illness began the night we arrived home, I really really hope I didn't pass on this illness to her. That'd be terrible.

So, here I am sitting in my chair at home watching television. I am hoping this illness will pass soon as I desperately want to go to Kingston to buy a copy of Ninja Assassin.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Trip to the Midlands

I know, I know. It’s been over a week since my last blog entry. “What have you been doing all this time?” is probably the question you are desperate to ask.

Well, nothing much really. I say nothing much, but I guess that would do a disservice to my week. I guess I have been busy. I went to the pub with my friends, I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes (a very good film), we came second in the pub quiz (we changed our team name!) and my friend Philip and I began our YouTube venture but nothing happened that was really worth sharing. There was no standout moment.

So, it’s probably best that I tell you, my dear reader, that I spent the weekend in the Midlands. Dorridge to be precise but I’d be fairly confident that you won’t have heard of it. Not because you are geographically illiterate, oh no, more because it is a tiny, tiny town. So tiny, that even the local citizens are all dwarfs.

I’m kidding about the dwarf thing. Every citizen in Dorridge is in fact an OAP though.

I wasn’t in this tiny, OAP town because I was there with my Mum and Dad to visit my Grandma. She lives in a bungalow. As a person who lives in a house that has stairs, it is quite a treat to stay somewhere where if I want to go to bed, I don’t need to climb some stairs.

Despite the fact we had a three hour journey there, the traffic was terrible, we didn’t exactly do very much. However, it was nice and relaxing. We went to the pub a few times, we had fish and chips from the local chippy, we went to a nice restaurant for Saturday lunch, we visited an odd garden centre and we drank a lot of tea. It was relaxing.

Despite this, I had to sleep in the same room as my Dad. He is a pain. He snores, he seems to wake up every 5 minutes, he constantly fidgets and worst of all, he woke up and bemoaned the noise of the cat trying to get around the house.

We drove home, relatively traffic free and we are now settling down to watch The Da Vinci Code. To think I woke up 150 miles away from home and I’m now watching a film made in Hollywood, which is a place thousands of miles away that I can at this point only dream about. I think that shows how random and varied life is.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Power Cut

So, I’m on the phone to my sister. She’s called, and quite frankly writing this now I still don’t understand what the point of her call was. All she literally told me during the initial stage of her call was to tell me she was out, which I pretty much realised seeing as she was in fact not inside our house.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, then the wierdest thing happened. The phone cut off. I had the television on and I heard from the phone that the sound had suddenly gone. Then, to confirm my view that we’d probably suffered a power cut, my sister shouted from upstairs that “the powers gone!”

I was annoyed. Frustrated. Angered. I had been watching the Arsenal vs Liverpool match and I was rather intruiged to see how the match would go. I checked on Twitter to see whether any other tweeters had tweeted about the situation.

It turned out they had. Skimming through the usual ‘Oh no, a powercut’ type posts, one tweeter was nice enough to tell the world that there had been an explosion on South Lane. “But that’s only one road away from me” I thought.

Now,  I never realised how addicted I was to electricity but it turns out I’m an electricity addict. I can’t get enough of it. Without access to the internet, a laptop dying without power, no food making technology and no access to the TV, I was bored. As bored as a baby in a book store. Yes, I was that bored.

Many hours later and desperately hungry, my friend suggested we go to the pub. Brilliant. A way to relieve the boredom and cure my hunger.

After food and the usual game of Pub Quiz on the IT Box we decided to play pool. Now, my friend isn’t that good at pool and being the modest type, I’m not that great. Yet, towards the end of our game we seemed to attract quite a crowd. It was as if we were competing in the World Pool Championship. Just as long as one considers the World Pool Championship to have a capacity crowd of two people. In fact, not even two people. They were two little children.

For some reason, the two little South Korean kids seemed to find our game worthy of their attention. I was flattered, and a little worried as I don’t like to have my pool abilities to be judged.

“Who won?” You are bound to ask. Well I did. It’s here that I’d like to say the two little children applauded my brilliance but they didn’t. They just seemed to want to play with the white ball and chuck it at the pockets on the table.

I think the moral of the story here is if you are going to play pool after suffering a power cut, it’s only likely to lead to your game being watched by South Korean children.

The power has come back on by the way. Thanks for asking.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Quiz: Part Two

If you can recall from an earlier blog, my friends and I have our own little quiz team that we enter into the weekly quiz on a Thursday down our local pub, The Berrylands.

I realise that in the last blog on this matter that I neglected to fill you in with a key detail. Our team name. It is brilliant. It is genius. It is certified genius by the man who runs the quiz. We are called Let’s Get Quizzical.

If you don’t understand then I will explain for you. It is a play on the lyrics of that famous song ‘Physical’ with the main, repeated lyric being “Let’s get phyiscal…physical”. We have simply replaced the word physical with quizzical. See, I told you it was genius.

Anywho, since the last blog post about the pub quiz, I am dissapointed to say that we have still failed to win the pub quiz. Quite frankly we are all suprised at this as we are all certified geniuses. I did just have to check that geniuses is the plural of genius there.

So, for this week’s edition of the pub quiz we brought in reinforcements. I say we, when I mean Becky brought her dad. However, we were convinced this would be a winning move. A strategy that would be copied in the future by pub quiz team’s consisting of 20 year olds failing in their quest to win. I say we were convinced, well I was convinced.

It turns out I was wrong. Despite the many points that were brought in this week by our new recruit, we still didn’t win. In fact, we weren’t even close. The bloody Bar Team wont again. How dare they!
The quiz master though did lead a chant against this cheating mob though. After the count of three, most people in the pub joined in with a rousing cry of “Cheating Bastards!”

So there we are. I’m still that immature that I can’t resist a good communal chant of “Cheating Bastards!” against a team of people who cheat at the pub quiz. Maybe I’m not maturing as fast as I thought…

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Monday, 15 August 2011

The Hour in Kingston

Something terrible has just happened. Something that any regular user of Spotify Open will tell you is the worst possible thing to happen. I have run out of minutes. Some people reading this will be asking, “Why are you using Spotify when you can illegally download for free?” I’ll tell you why. I am upstanding member of society. I like to set an example. I want to be the model citizen. I can, just about, understand the mentality of people who illegally download music and then go out and purchase said music. However, I simply use Spotify for this function.

I had recently stored up to 20 hours worth of listening time. I rationed my Spotify time like I was in some kind of war that rendered Spotify minutes the most important commodity available. I had, however, dwindled these minutes away recently after discovering two albums, Coastal Grooves by Blood Orange and Sbtrkt by SBTRKT. Upon using up all my listening hours, the time had thus come to purchase these two albums.

My planned sojourn into Kingston to purchase these albums took a twist though. My dad was in his room reading the newspapers just before he was about to go to bed and he asked me to look up whether the album Electric Warrior by T-Rex was available to purchase anywhere. I duly checked and informed him it was only a tenner in HMV and I told him I was going to Kingston the next day to buy some CD’s so I said I’d pick it up for him.

So, the time had come. I decided against my better judgement to walk into Kingston. I had recently stumbled upon a shortcut into Kingston so I followed this new, brave path to reach my destination. It was exciting. It was fun. It was new. Within 15 or so minutes I had reached the outskirts of Kingston and I noticed a road name that I had never previously seen. Splashwater Close. I’m sure there’s a joke to be made somewhere there.

Soon enough I was in HMV. I hadn’t been into HMV recently yet I wasn’t at all suprised to see that it had changed its layout yet again. That seems to be the main problem of HMV, it never has a settled layout. I thought it brilliant I didn’t manage to get lost. I had managed to find the two albums I was after in decent enough time which left the elusive CD that my dad was after.

After ten minutes I was going mad. This CD was so bloody elusive. In the ‘Rock and Pop’ section they stocked a few T-Rex albums apart from the one my Dad was after despite his assurances that this particular album is a “classic”. I very much doubt this statement. I began to search high and low. Literally. I even begun looking in the ‘Soul’, ‘Dance’ and even the ‘Metal’ section. It was clear I had lost the plot as I started marching around HMV like a deluded maniac. I eventually gave up.

I had paid for my purchases and decided to walk home the traditional way via a stop at Greggs. On the corner of the street there were some large, afro-caribbean guys handing out hip hop CD’s. Or at least I thought they were. One of the group handed a CD to me proclaiming they were “14 tracks of pure, old school hip hop”. Ok, I don’t particularly love hip hop that much but seeing as it was free, who am I to turn down 14 tracks of pure, old school hip hop?

I went to grab the CD and asked, as is polite, “Is it free?” I began to notice the man tightly grab the CD that I now appeared to be trying to steal from his hand. “No, you need to make a donation”. A donation? That’s a slightly odd way of asking for money. I personally donate money to UNICEF but I’m not exactly in the business of donating money to the Kingston hip-hop community. I don’t see it as being that worthy a cause. I began to walk away and then one of the other men said something almost inaudible so I promptly laughed and said “ok”. That seemed to do the trick. It’s always the safest thing to do when you can’t understand someone.

I walked into Greggs and began to try and work out what he said. When I got up to the counter I had indeed cracked what he had said. I believe he said “I’ll pop you for that”. I now know that I’ll need to be very wary and on my guard whenever I am around members of the Kingston hip-hop community.

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Friday, 12 August 2011

The London Riots

It’s a relatively dull Monday. I am sitting at home watching the BBC News channel. Now, this is fairly out of the ordinary behaviour for me. I never watch the BBC News channel unless a major celebrity has died, and even then I choose to watch the much more trashy Sky News.

“Why were you watching it?” I hear you ask. Well, I was watching the BBC News channel because I was worried. Nervous. Scared. Only the night before, rioting had spread across London from Tottenham to Enfield and then to Hackney and Brixton. As I occasionally frequent Hackney and Brixton, it was sad to see two great places be overrun by mindless criminals.

I had little to do in the day so I was merely milling about until 7:45PM, at which point I’d go to the pub and meet my friends. Except, a few of my friends weren’t even in London, they were on holiday. They probably had wizard like abilities to forsee the riots in London so consequently booked holidays away. How dare they not share this intel with us lot? Anyway, we had a small party at the pub. Only four of us. After settling down and supping at my pint of Carlsberg, I noticed something very red on the television.

If you are clever enough to work this out, you will have guessed correctly that the television at the pub was showing the BBC News channel. If you are even more intelligent, you will be able to guess that the very red thing on the television was a fire. The only other thing it could be would be a large, screen wide picture of Charmeleon. However, that’d be a little odd for that to be showing on the BBC News channel unless every childs dream had come true that in fact Pokemon were real and were rampaging through Croydon. “Oh shit, there’s a fire in Croydon” I exclaimed. See, there wasn’t a Charmeleon rampaging through Croydon. It was in fact underclass yobs who were destroying the town and a very old furniture store that had survived two World Wars but was currently burning down to the ground.

It was at this point in this fascinating tale that I finished my Carlsberg. I handed my friend a £2 coin to get me another Carslberg as he was heading to the bar. He was soon back though telling me that the pub was closing up due to the riots heading our way. To compound this, I very rapidly recieved a text from my Mum asking if I could come home due to the riots.

So, it seemed that after just one pint the night was over. This only compounded my view that the rioters were scum of the earth. How dare they ruin our big night out?

At least I managed to catch Dirty Sexy Things on the telly when I got home though!

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Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Teabag Conflict

As the stereotype goes, us Brits like our tea. Amongst my family, we certainly live up to that. In fact, we quaff so much tea that I honestly wouldn’t be suprised if our bodies were made up of tea, instead of water like the typical human being.

Being the loyal tea consumers we are, Tetley’s can constantly count on our purchasing of their tea bags. However, on one trip to Co-op recently, we purcahsed even more of Tetley’s tea bags. Alongside the traditional round, plain tea bag, my Mum decided it was time to pull our family firmly into the 21st Century of tea bag technology. She decided to purchase drawstring bags. This was big news.

“What are you doing?” I protested.
“What do you mean?” She returned confused.
“Why are you buying drawstring bags when I’ve already stuck some normal teabags in the trolley?”
“I like drawstring bags and it’s time for a change”.

I honestly coulden’t believe this. The cheek of the woman, arrogantly changing our tea drinking ways with these fancy drawstrings. I wanted to shout in her face that “We have a tea making system and it doesn’t involve drawstring bags!” However, she had made her call. She had decided that this was the future.

A week later and my Mum had gone off for a week to go camping due to her involvement with the Guides. A day into the week we ran out of the ordinary, safe, comforting tea bags. If I wanted tea I had to use the damn drawstring bags. They had won. They knew I’d eventually have to use them.

As I found out over the course of the week, they actually make the whole tea making process a hell of a lot easier. Long live the drawstring!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Surveys

Due to the fact that I am willing to undertake any money making scheme, I have stumbled upon a particularly brilliant one of late.

I was surfing the web, does anyone still use that phrase?, when I came across this fantastic offer from YouGov of £50 for merely filling in surveys. Easy. Even I could do that.

Without a moments hesitation, I had signed up. I am now so important companies would like to know my views on issues such as fishing stock levels, supermarket experiences and whether I am a regular consumer of soft drinks. Seeing as I also love studying the latest political polls, I could now partake in telling YouGov who I would vote for. Fantastic. I was part of the establishment. I was a soundboard. People would suddenly flock to me to hear my views due to the fact I would seen be an experienced person in the field of doing surveys. Plus, the £50 would be able to buy me many pints down the pub. It was a win-win.

As part of the introduction process, I had to fill in a basic survey to consider my suitablity to certain types of surveys that YouGov could issue. Luckily, being a student, from a fairly well off background, in the 16-25 age bracket made me fairly attractive to YouGov.

Having granted YouGov those 10 minutes of my life, I hoped my £50 would be on its way to me. However, I noticed at the end, I had been granted 25 points. Eh. What’s this points nonsense? Being a student in the 16-25 age bracket, I tend not to read the small print. I tend to just dive in head first.

It turns out I need to gain 5000 points to get that £50 cheque. “How am you doing?” I hear you ask. Well let me just say, a few weeks after signing up, I am still 4650 points from that cheque. It’s going to be a while until I’m buying myself pints down the pub thanks to my brilliant, sought after viewpoints.

The Gillette Advert

As a 20 year old man/boy (choose whichever you want), one of the many issues I face is shaving. It’s a tricky area. It’s a dilemma faced the world over. Electric or traditional razor? Wet or dry?

If like me, you choose to go down the route of a traditional basic razor you face the further dilemma of which shaving foam to use. Quite frankly, there are many to choose from. In addition to this, there’s also which brand of razor to buy. Gillette? Bic? Asda’s own? The choices are…quite limited actually.

Anyway, as a long standing Gillette customers, for all of two years, I need to inform and warn everyone of a massive faux pas by Gillette. A fine brand. Until today.

Usually, Gillette has many famous figures advertising their brands. Legends in their fields. The likes of Federer, Henry and Tiger Woods. Fine institutions, I think you may agree.

However, their latest advert is just very bizarre. It features a camera crew going into a gym’s changing room and interviewing various semi-naked men in their various stages of the shaving process. At the end, the interviewer even gets put into a headlock by one of the aforementioned semi-naked men.

I think you’ll agree if you’ve seen it. It’s very, very creepy, and very, very wierd.

The Quiz

Every Thursday, a few friends and I compete in our local pub quiz. Pub quizzes are the ultimate manly activity. Beer and facts. A pub quiz seperates the men from the boys. Unfortunately, we are probably all still boys as we have yet to win despite the fact we all think we are clever. Our A-Team consists of people who go to University at Edinburgh, Essex, Leeds and myself at Reading. Oh, and someone who’s been to University twice.

However, disaster struck in our most recent outing. The majority of our A-Team were busy and were unable to come. So, we drafted in the B-Team. We knew we were doomed to yet another winless week.
One of the B-Team members is, let’s just say, very confident in his answers so usually we go along with his answers and they turn out to be wrong. So, in the best way possible, we ignored his answers. However, that turned out to be terrible. He was right in all his answers and we were doing awfully. Terrible scores like 5/15 were notched up in the opening rounds.

Only the picture round and the music round could save us from humiliation of last place. We performed terribly yet again. When the final scores were announced, we had somehow finished last. Against a room full of drunkards and some people so old they probably didn’t know what their name was, we somehow came last. This was awful.

The second it was announced we had come last we quickly left, embarrased and shamed. What idiots we are.

The Tesco Employee

It’s Saturday night. It’s 10PM. Strangely enough, I’m in the nearest Tesco superstore with some friends and we are searching for snacks and drinks for what can only be described as a gathering at a friend’s home. Being the generous soul I am, I offered to drive to Tesco so I was on the energy drinks whilst others in our party picked up various different ciders and many different snacks from Doritos to Skittles.
At this point, seeing as we are law abiding citizens we decided to pay. How noble of us. To avoid the slow and possible mundane conversation with a human cashier, we thought it best to use the tills we’re you scan your own products and pay.

Suddenly, a man strolled over. He was a man with a Tesco badge with his name on. He told us that there were too many of us using the till and that some of us should move out the way. Even though he looked quite young, despite his tall and round nature, three of us took this command and moved.

Two minutes later the same man was back. ‘What does he want now?’ I thought. It turns out he wanted a chat. Now, I am more than welcome to chat to a stranger for two minutes. However, this man looked a bit creepy. Plus, his conversational starters were a little odd. ‘Does the fact that I passed my consumer law exams just yesturday mean I can give out instructions?’ I was lost for words. Did he think we were his boss? Did he think we were covert examiners judging his post-exam actions? We realised now, none of us had said anything for a while so we all responded with a nonchalant, non-committal ‘Probably’.

It is now that I wish I could say he left us and went away. But that would be a lie. For a few minutes he carried on his bizarre discussions and then issued a sentance that stunned us all. ‘You know that Tesco have got such a big legal team…it’d be stupid to take them on in court’. So now, whilst Phil, Dan and I stood by the front of the store we were apparently giving off the look of a group of people intent on taking Tesco to court for no specified reason. Seeing as Dan is not from England, he seemed a bit scared by this man so we tried our best to wrap things up and Phil said, ‘Yes, Tesco does have a big legal team doesn’t it’. We hoped this would make him leave, but he left with some good advice for us. Or for anyone who doesn’t fancy taking on a large Supermarket chain.

‘If you want to take someone on, go for Lidl’.

The rest of our party had finished paying and we left the store no doubt plotting our legal challenge to Lidl. Or possibly Aldi as well.

The Big Decision

As I’m home from University for the Summer, I am essentially the slave in my household. My parents expect me, in return for the generous allowance they give me and rent payments for my Uni housing, to carry out numerous chores such as washing up.

The main job, however, is to buy vital things from the local cornershop. The most important being the daily newspapers.

As creatures of habit, my parent’s have got into reading The Sun and the Daily Mail. However, a recent conversation unearthed a deeply important, game-chaning issue. Neither of them nor myself actually like the Daily Mail. In my household, this was a groundbreaking revelation.

So, there was a void to fill for our second newspaper. The quality one. The one which told us the news in a less breast-filled, simple english and fun way like The Sun. A year ago, I had got into reading The Independent, however, it’s pricey nature had put me off. Yet, on the first monday in our new world order of not buying the Daily Mail my dad left me a £10 note and wrote ‘Buy whatever paper you like’. He didn’t write that on the £10 note of course, that would be silly.

I thundered to the shop. Which paper would I buy? And there it was. Sitting there proudly on the shelf. The Independent, in all it’s glory offering a critical account of the News International phone hacking story. We all enjoyed the paper. Even my mum, largely thanks to the decent amount of puzzles and crosswords. A bonus, you might say.

However, a week later and everytime I’ve been to the shop The Independent has been sold out. I think you’d like to know I’ve had to buy the Daily Mail in its place.

The Awkward Chat

It is late afternoon and I am sat revising for an upcoming exam with my friend in the computer room at the University Library. As is almost protocol when studying, you find yourself having many little breaks to have a chat to cure the boredom of revising pointless facts over and over again. Did you know Sweden has a unicameral parliament?

Now me and my friend were about to have a chat that I didn’t expect to have. I was about to be hit with some revelatory news about one of our teachers who everyone quite seemed to like. I should not divulge anymore. It is here where if I were a good writer who liked a gossip then I’d share with you the nature of the conversation, but let’s just say it was suprising.

Anyway, some of my friend’s other friends came over and we thus trotted off to dinner. Whilst I supped at my water and tried to eat a fairly dissapointing burger, the aforementioned teacher suddenly became the centre of the debate engulfing the table. My friend and I began to giggle at the coincidence. Then suddenly, one of the group mentioned that she wanted to go and see the teacher the next day to discuss the upcoming exam. Due to what my friend had told me, we decided we should warn her from going to see him.

We all walked back to the Library with satisfied tummies, however my friend quickly shouted at the girl who wanted to go and see the teacher. He quickly dashed off leaving me to tell her the problem at hand. Seeing as what I was supposed to tell her about the teacher was quite unbelievable as well as being potentially illegal, I panicked and said after many second of silence, ‘I’ll go with you to see him tommorow…as…er…I need to see him as well’.

Phew. I had got away with it. I hadn’t divulged the information that I shouldn’t share, neither did I come across as a crazy wierdo. Wait a minute. Hold on a jiffy. She now looked frightened. Oh shit. She thinks I like her in that way. Oh crap. I had scared someone I only vaguely know and now she thinks I’m in love with her.

I scuttled back off to the computer room and spent the next few hours wondering how to correct the awkward situation. Despite this, I still got a great score on my exam the next day. I’d like to think that’s karma for undergoing that awkward situation.