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My most embarrassing moment – the paper round

16 Jan

Paper boyThose who know me now may be surprised to learn that I wasn’t always the cool, collected person I am today *ahem*

In fact, my life pretty much used to consist of merely trying to get through the day without doing anything to completely humiliate myself or, at least, to try and stop anyone finding out about the stupid things I’d done.

I was reminded of the moment that is most brought up at family get-togethers, was shared with my entire football team thanks to my dad, who found it hilarious, and is possibly the most idiotic of the lot.

Before you read it, you need to realise that I didn’t have a lot of common sense back then (I still don’t) – it’s the only explanation for how it happened.

I was 14 years old, an intelligent young man, but fairly awkward and with a propensity for doing stupid things.

I wasn’t a geek or anything, but best fit into the category of inbetweener. I played football, but not particularly well, I was smart, but never found in the library and I liked getting drunk, but looked too young to ever be served.

My income came from a morning paper round. I would be up at 6am, out by quarter past and back by half seven to get ready for school.

I didn’t even get a respite on Saturdays and Sundays – if anything, it got worse because of the weekend papers so I had to do two or three trips.

These days, getting out of a bed is a massive struggle, so it amazes me that I managed to get out of bed every day. But I was used to it and could jump out of bed as soon as my alarm went off.

So when my alarm went off on that fateful day, I just jumped straight out of bed as usual and got dressed.

I headed downstairs, made myself some breakfast, wolfed it down and got on my bike with my bright orange paper bad and left.

I remember thinking that it seemed a bit darker than usual, but I attributed that to the winter months closing in. There were more people around than usual and they all seemed a bit drunk – maybe it had been a student night and people were on their way home.

When I got to the newsagent, it was closed. This confused me – my boss wasn’t the tardy type. If anything, he’d be the one going mad if you were late.

I didn’t have a watch with me and, although I had my first mobile phone, I hadn’t brought it with me. I only really used it try and flirt with girls and they didn’t really appreciate that at six in the morning.

Confused and still only half-awake, I cycled back to the nearest open place I could find to ask them the time. It turned out to be the kebab man. This didn’t seem strange to me.

Kebab manThe kebab man confirmed that it was half past midnight. As he said this, a drunk couple staggered up, took one look at me, burst into uncontrollable laughter and ordered a large doner.

I cycled home, planning to sneak back in quietly so that my family wouldn’t wake up and realise what an idiot I’d been.

Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I hadn’t brought my keys with me. They were always awake by the time I got back, so I’d never needed to.

Fortunately, our brand new extension extended beneath my own bedroom windows. Unfortunately, after climbing on top of it I realised that all of my windows were locked.

So I’d have to wake the house, which, for some reason, I chose to do by opening the letter box and wailing ‘mmmuuuuuummmm, can you open the doooooooor’ until she came down in her dressing gown and did just that.

I’d hoped that my mum, being the lightest sleeper, might sneak downstairs, let me in, laugh at me but agree not to tell anyone.

Unfortunately, she clearly didn’t recognise my voice and was flanked by my dad, who had come down just in case it was a burglar that he needed to knock out. Because burglars always enter houses by wailing through letterboxes.

As it happened, my dad told everyone he knew and probably more. It wouldn’t surprise me if he told everyone he saw that day – I’m sure there is a cashier at the supermarket who probably had a good laugh about it the next day.

He told all of my friends when they came over, all of my teammates on my football team and still laughs about the fact that I had my breakfast at midnight to this day.

I don’t know what it was that woke me up at midnight – it wasn’t my alarm as that went off at 6am as usual – but there must have been a noise that I’d just assumed was my alarm and hadn’t checked.

This was one of many such incidents that used to punctuate my life. These days, I’m better at stopping myself getting that far.

I remembered this story and decided to share it after getting a text from a friend at midnight, which woke me up.

Having got up and grabbed my towel to go in the shower, I did the thing that I’ve learnt from bitter experience to do and checked the time.

I got back into bed, remembered this story, laughed to myself and went back to sleep. At least I didn’t try to go to work with only the kebab man for company.

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Running into inspiration

8 Nov

Yesterday, in a wholly uncharacteristic move, I decided to join a gym. Now having seen the video that I’ve embedded and read that first line, you’ve probably put two and two together. Well, guess what. You’ve made five.

Because it wasn’t actually until today that I first saw this video and, like the majority of the hundreds of thousands of people that watched it before me, I felt inspired.

It’s a powerful, yet simple story. For those of you too lazy to watch the video (I don’t blame you, I probably wouldn’t either in your position) it’s about an American guy who used to be fat. Then he started running, lost weight and started to feel better about himself. Seriously, watch it – my description does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.

Now I’m not a portly chap. Far from it really – I’ve been a skinny little rake for the majority of my life and at 5’9 and 11 stone with a bmi of roughly 22.5, I’m pretty healthy on the face of it. Except that I don’t really feel that healthy.

I rarely have much energy, I don’t play anywhere near enough sport as I used to and, frankly, I’m just not in as good shape as I would like to be. I feel like my metabolism is slowing down more with every day and I don’t much like the idea of a beer belly.

And that’s where the overall message of this video comes in. And not just in a fitness sense – the message transpires to numerous elements of my life.

if you want to do it, all you have to do is do it

It’s simple, but it’s bloody true. My laziness tends to prevent me from doing things that I actually want to do. Combine that with the magnitude of starting something new and it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

Whenever I’ve actually gone for a run, I’ve really enjoyed it. Whenever I’ve decided to go to football even though I really can’t be bothered, I’m really pleased that I did. And yes, whenever I’ve decided to write a blog post instead of having a couple of games of FIFA, I find it far more rewarding.

So I’m going to try my best to keep that message in mind. There are plenty of things that I want to do – get back to a good level of fitness, buy a car and start driving, write a book.

Miraculously, I’ve actually managed to do one of those (the car) but how that came about I’m still not quite sure. And I’ve made a start on another by joining a gym. Where I’m getting all this inspiration from, I’ve no idea.

But I’ll be keeping that little message in mind, because it’s so true.

if you want to do it, all you have to do is do it

20 cool things I’ve done in 2009

22 Dec

1. Saw in the new year dressed as Flava Flav
Flava Flav costume
2. Decided that I didn’t like Twitter
3. Changed my mind about Twitter
4. Beat all the national newspapers to reporting about Match of the Day pundit Alan Pardew describing a tackle as a ‘raping’
5. Set up the @GuardianVoices Twitter feed
6. Started a new blog about Reading FC, my local team
7. Went to a party without electricity
8. Won free VIP tickets to Glastonbury and took my best friend Ross
Glastonbury 2009
9. Had my first piece published on guardian.co.uk, a game review of Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
10. Got an iPhone (yes, that is cool!)
11. Went on a circle line pub crawl and learnt how to play tube surfing

Get those feet off the floor


12. Had my first piece published on Guardian Careers, a piece about working from home and started contributing regularly
13. Had a chat with Kriss Akabusi on Twitter
14. Went to see England’s final qualifying game for the World Cup at Wembley
15. Was named as the #FollowJourn for the day on journalism.co.uk
16. Watched The Exorcist on a giant screen in a graveyard
17. Cooked my first ever roast dinner

18. Won a Flip HD video camera
19. Saw Har Mar Superstar playing an intimate gig at The Macbeth
20. Went out dressed as the tinman

A lazy Sunday…

6 Sep

So in my boredom on this sunny Sunday afternoon I decided to take a walk around Bethnal Green. I ended up doing some primitive Parkour around Victoria Park and taking photos of everything I saw with my iPhone.

On climbing by Mile End station, I found some cool graffiti, set near that most beautiful of things; a kebab shop:

Graffiti by a kebab shop

I then wandered into the woods and found two mirrored walls, prompting this photo which I can’t quite get my head around considering that I definitely didn’t do it MySpace style:

Mirrored jeans

My favourite photo of the set up next. I love the way the beauty of the sun shining through with the graffiti tucked behind it:

Sunshine over a graffited canal

Finally, a nice boat that I wandered past:
Boat on the canal

This little exercise has really made me crave a digital SLR camera now, so that I can go out and do this kind of thing more often. If you’d like to view the full set from today, here it is on Flickr.

How to play…tube surfing

30 Aug

So you’ve had a few drinks, need to take the tube to your next watering hole, but find London underground journeys a little, well, boring. What you need in your life is tube surfing. The aim: make it from one stop to the next without using anything to lean on. No holding on to help you balance. Surfing stance preferable.

Sounds easy? Well it is actually, until you’ve had a few drinks. And when the punishments for failure result in more drinks, keeping your balance is more difficult than it sounds.

So you throw in some extra rules. When someone shouts “SHARK ATTACK” the idea is to get your feet off the floor as quickly as possible. For ten seconds or so. See below:

Get those feet off the floor

Get those feet off the floor

Hopefully you’ll be doing this at an antisocial time of night anyway, so there won’t be too many fellow passengers to piss off, but you’d better bring along some entertainment just in case. If one of you could start serenading the masses while the most drunk of your group takes his shirts off and stumbles around in what could vaguely be called ‘dancing’ that could take the heat off. See below:

A nice tube surfing session

A nice tube surfing session

So that’s how you tube surf. Don’t tell them I told you…

Glastonbury 2009: Part two

3 Jul

With nobody that we were particularly bothered about seeing until Spinal Tap at 14:50, we decided to have something of a chill-out morning, sitting around the tent polishing off our extensive food shopping and generally enjoying the sunshine. Finding the queue for the showers to be at least an hour and a half long, we decided to give our bodies as thorough a clean as the teeth cleaning taps would allow. Our plans for a chilled out morning went awry as our neighbours popped over to demand that we go and drink cider with them backstage, which we happily caved in to.

Spinal Tap came on and we had a decent position near the Pyramid Stage, where we watched them turn it up to 11. They were really good fun, the rendition of ‘big bottom’ featuring Jarvis Cocker a high point in their set. Up next was Dizzee Rascal, who must be the only act in Britain that is universally enjoyed by everyone, no matter what kind of music they like. I saw him at Reading Festival a few years back and he was as loved there as he was here. Only back then he didn’t have a weapon like ‘bonkers’ to unleash on an audience ready and waiting to pogo.

Having decided that today would be spent getting completely trashed, as Ross would be driving back Sunday evening and thus unable to drink the next day, we headed back to the VIP bar for more cider and then back to the tent to collect the last of the beer for consumption during Kasabian. As well as cook a gourmet meal of a tin of beans on the barbeque. Yes we took the lids off. Yes we took the labels off. Since you didn’t ask. By the time Kasabian finished their excellent set, we were well on the way to drunksville. Next up were the White Lies in the John Peel tent, whose set we had mostly missed the day before. They were excellent. We met a couple of girls that were just as interested in getting off their faces as we were and we headed back to the bar.

Ross at the White Lies

We then went to see The Boss or what was left of his set, at least. I remember almost nothing of his set, although I’m told it was quite long. The rest of the evening was spent wandering around campsites drinking sambuca from a water bottle before heading to a very strange little bar with a rabbit hole inside. The next thing I remember, I was back in my tent.

Sunday, bloody Sunday and my word were we hungover. Not even seeing Carol Vorderman as we loaded up the car with our filthy, stinking clothes could awaken us from our slumber. We decided to take it easy and enjoy a nice cooked breakfast for a change for finally heading out to watch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who were gloriously mental, with the lead singer wearing a fantastic hat and the bans ending their set by smashing the set up.

Lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Next up were Bat for Lashes, featuring regular guest of my flat Charlotte Hatherley. I only stayed for a couple of songs as I wanted to see ladyhawke as well, but they sounded pretty good and it was cool to see Charlotte doing her thing. Ladyhawke seemed charmingly innocent and pleased to just have the opportunity to entertain us. It helped that she was bloody great as well. We then saw The Wombats before the grand finale of our weekend.

Blur were incredible. I have never enjoyed a set as much as I did theirs in my life. They played hit after hit after hit and absolutely owned the pyramid stage. Damon was electric and didn’t stop running about the place the whole time. The crowd responded brilliantly to every song and, bizarrely, it became something of a singalong performance. When song 2 blared out, it felt as though we would be pogoing to the moon. Tim Jonze at guardian.co.uk says more than I have space for.

It was a superb weekend and my thanks to all involved. I hadn’t been to Glastonbury before, but I’ll definitely be going back again. I leave you with this one photograph, taken on my phone, that sums up my experience better than these hundreds of words ever could.

Todd and Ross rock out at Glastonbury '09

Glastonbury 2009: My experience

30 Jun

Having found out that I’d won VIP tickets for the Glastonbury festival on Monday afternoon, I needed to organise myself sharpish and throw some clothes together in time for Wednesday morning. Which, of course, I did on Wednesday morning, dragging bagfulls of clothes, toiletries and sleeping mats down to Reading, via a days work at Kings Place, and onto Glastonbury with my good pal Ross. The plan being to leave around 6pm, we eventually set off at half 9, nipping in to Asda on the way to spend £80 on beer, food, lager, water, cider and disposable barbeques. We arrived at the campsite at 1am, taking a long detour around the South-West due to Ross’ lack of directions or a map to get us there, and pitched up our tent in pitch-black darkness with a can of lager permanently attached to one hand, a look we would become accustomed to over the weekend.

Glastonbury wristband

We woke up early on Thursday morning due to the suffocating heat of our very old, not quite waterproof tent. Our weekly shop had us penned into tight sleeping lanes and not all of it had stayed in bags. In fact, I’d already warmed up the croissants for breakfast by virtue of rolling onto them in the middle of the night. Tasty! Observing our surroundings, we decided to meet people by helping them to set up their tents and we did so by rescuing two absolutely useless dames in the form of Ali and Katherine, whose palace of a tent was proving far too complex for them to construct. In a matter of moments (ahem) we had it up and it looked a little something like this:

The girl's tent

We spent the rest of the day celebrating this success in the VIP bar with copious amounts of cider, an area that was great for chilling out in over the weekend. It was here that Lip from Shameless came over and greeted us as though in the presence of an old friend, or someone that he wanted to meet at least. This threw us both somewhat, as we recognised him, but couldn’t work out where from. After some small talk, it began to dawn on us the reason that we recognised him and on him that we were in fact, nobodies. Both parties sharpishly headed back to their ciders, before drowning our sorrows in them when we heard the terrible news about Michael Jackson.

Friday marked the start of the music and the continuation of the rain. It had absolutely hammered down on Thursday afternoon with thunderstorms in the evening and we were glad to have bought wellies the day before. We eventually braved it out of our tents and towards the music, where our first band of the festival was The Rakes, whose lead singer professed his pleasure in Michael Jackson’s death, which was met with shock from their crowd. Next up were The Maccabees. Their show provided one of the highlights of my weekend, as the rainclouds cleared and the sun came pouring through, to be met by huge cheers from every single Glastonbury reveller. It helped that the band were bloody brilliant too.

We headed over to the Pyramid stage next for N*E*R*D who had decided that the timeslot didn’t apply to them as despite being last-minute additions, the entire 200,000 people had paid their ‘100 dollars’ to see them. Despite this misguided, arrogant attitute, the crowd got behind them when they were kicked off and it provided a bizarre moment as Pharrell Williams continued to sing defiantly despite the sound having been cut. Due to this, we missed the beginning of the White Lies and didn’t get to experience their set as we would have liked. Following them were the Friendly Fires, who were great and their lead-singer proved to be quite the dancer. He moved the way I do after ten pints of cider in a seedy nightclub. The way I do in my head at least.

We saw Lada Gaga’s toned backside stride around the stage with her fire-starting nipples before heading back to the bar to stock up on the alcohol in preparation for bloc party, who I am a massive fan of and they surpassed all expectations with a great set. Heading back to the campsite tired, drunk and happy we lit a campfire, which Ross passed out in front of while I sang very loudly and out-of-tune all the songs I had heard that day.

Part Two here

All of my Glastonbury photos can be found here.