My hormones stepped up into overdrive. The pale, gingery goddess with crystal blue eyes stared back at me.
My heart pumped in my chest. My body tingled all over with that warm fuzzy feeling. My mind was aghast in a cringey teenage tornado. I even got goosebumps.
⚠️ WARNING ⚠️
The following blog entry is from the perspective of my virginial, awkward teenage self. People who read my blogs often ask ‘why did you do that’ etc, but I am older, wiser, and far more cynical these days.
This teenage moment happened back in the 2000’s. Our phones weren’t smart and neither was I.
As you have read before, I had decided to become a gothical emo alternative schmuck. A year later from this decision, disappointing facial hair had now grown, and I adamantly refused to shave the fluff. My theory was that if I shaved, it would grow back into a scary full-on man beard I would never be able to get rid of. Hipster was a mere trend-foetus at this stage.
My new life ambition was to become a charismatic and popular rockstar – despite not knowing how to play any instruments and only drinking Watermelon Barcardi Breezers. I was studying at Brockenhurst college – and my goth, I was having a social renaissance.
I could wear what I want!
Well, what I wanted back then was a t-shirt advertising Iron Maiden. Complete with TK Maxx leather jacket and various bandanas. Said jacket was worn so much, I was known as The Fonz around the Hard Brock Cafe. Yep, it was actually called that.
This fashion had replaced the Matalan red fleeces and T-shirts with pressable sound effects (the only clothing I’ve ever worn that came with it’s own battery pack.)
On went the tight drainpipe trousers (with great difficulty), black shag bands and dangling chain then went around my jeans pocket for no reason whatsoever. This infographic pretty much sums me up:
Each day seemed more amazing than the next. I wouldn’t get told off for not turning up to college! However, GTA: San Andreas ruined my education and I didn’t get the A-Level grades I probably should have got.
Everyone at colleague was friendly. I could even call teachers by their first name!
I had gone from shy wallflower to someone who would just sit next to someone on the college bus and strike up a conversation. I was giddy and no doubts could stop me. My confidence was growing at a great rate, but my decisions, like my unbeard, were ridiculous.
I aimed to be part of the Goth clique at college. Not by talking to them, but by dressing like them and listening to their music. My logic was that my alternative aura would naturally pull me into their black-cladded, growling ensemble that looked like an economy Lost Boys mixed with the Addams Family. Their leader had nostrils that looked like the arches of a viaduct.
To further my transformation, I decided not to have my hair cut for about 14 months. It grew into an unkept mane with the colour of mocha, of which was wrapped up in a burgundy bandana. My Dad said I looked like Jim Morrison. Looking back I resembled like a poor man’s Tarzan.
Everyone was banging on about Natasha Bedingfield and Britney, but my dream girl back then was Amy Lee.
Bring me to life :p
At the time girls were confusing and elusive (this is still true!), yet I yearned for a girlfriend. I would see prancing couples at college, and goopy long haired barons doing handstands on the field, lapping up the attention. I’d think, ‘what is the boyfriend saying that is so magical? What is he doing?’
I lived in a town (New Milton) where the average age was 70 and fun was outlawed. Any women my age were mostly likely pregnant or were aiming towards their first ASBO.
There was Michaela, a girl from Winchester. She was very lovely and talkative, we could have a potential future, but there was one stipulation.
We never actually met.
So in summary, my love life was pretty much dead. Maybe my destiny was a microwaveable Meal for One – or like my once stepfather, order a Thai Bride off the internet.
I went to visit my Nan in Wales, over Easter and we’d just popped to see Auntie Vi. She wasn’t even an Auntie, it was just one of those affectionate terms, like Nan. Vi’s accent was so thick with Welshness her voice sounded like she swallowed a cheese grater. She always gave me money so I could buy sweets, as would many of my Nan’s friends. I instead saved all these coins enough over the years to buy my own Playstation. My inner businessman started to salivate when any of them got their purses out around me.
On the way back from Vi’s, my pocket now full of well-earned coins, I passed by something that usually escaped me. I was wearing a grungy black T-shirt with a mud design, the fashionista that I was, with my mocha mullet flowing and my Will-from-Inbetweeners spectacles on. I saw a ginger girl. She had a slightly pale complexion with ocean blue eyes. She was very pretty, and I think she smiled at me.
Hang on. Oh my god.
I loitered around the town centre, contemplating this rare phenomenon. I later saw her with three African girls perched up near some steps.
“Hi” they said in chorus.
I almost did a double take. Were they speaking to someone behind me? Were they drunk?
It was almost time.
The Chuckle Brothers were about to descend upon Bournemouth. Oh dear oh dear!
I was quite looking forward to their arrival – they were one of the few icons of my childhood that had not been investigated by Operation Yewtree.
Paul and Barry were doing a meet ‘n’ greet at Halo nightclub, an activity usually partaken by chiselled, personality-vacuums celebrities from Love Island, or ‘Gaz’ from Geordie Shore.
We arrived at Weatherspoons. Like Phil Mitchell and moaning about the weather – this pub behemoth – affectionately abbreviated as ‘Spoons – was a staple of British culture. Some warm-up drinks were needed – the cocktails of Woo Woo and Purple Rain were the perfect social lubrication for the mainstream Halo Nightclub – something I was unfamiliar with. I was used to Sound Circus, a rock bar which only plays 7 different songs and is inhabited by people with big beards and questionable social skills.
We exclaimed to the ‘Spoons barmaid that we were meeting the Chuckle Brothers, and her face erupted into an expression of nostalgic glee. “Ask them to come here at 3am,” she proclaimed.
Did she wanted a threesome with them? To me, to you, to me?
I asked her if she’d be giving them free drinks – seeing as they were a great source of entertainment when she was growing up. “No, they got paid to be entertaining! I arched my eyebrow. “Maybe a free soda water.”
After getting suitably tanked up, we ventured to Halo. Many years ago, it was a church – Aplace of God. Unfortunately, like Tesco in Westbourne, places of Christ were now the new haven for capitalist greed. We are still yet to see the day the local synagogue is converted into a Gregg’s.
I was proud to have my £6 ticket in hand, getting my special queue jump bonus! We were one of the first to arrive and there was about 8 people queueing – but we still got to jump the queue!
We had to pass through 3 members of staff to get access to the Church Club. First past the bouncer, who squinted at the ticket. Then another person who scanned my ID into a special computer. It flashed up to reveal my ripe age amongst the horde of 18 years olds behind. I felt like retiring to bed, putting on my slippers and moaning about Brexit.
We arrived at the front desk to find one of the barmaids stuffed inside a tight cblack orset, her cleavage gasping for air. It turned out this – along with stilettos – was the dress code. Good to see objectification and gender unequality was alive in 2017.
To my horror, I had to pay an additional £5 to get into the club that I was not expecting. My friend retorted that Barry and Paul were worth it, but I still silently seethed at this marketing trickery. Paying to go to an event, then paying to get into the building that’s holding said event? It’s like getting buying a meal at Chiquitos but paying for the cutlery and plate – before you can eat it!
I held in my rage, and ordered a double vodka and coke. It was served in the same kind of tumbler that we had at school. The minimum card spend was £10 and the drink was £2.50. This was a fair attempt to get me to buy more and help my slow descent into alcoholism.
I was then hit with the news the Chuckles weren’t appearing until half 12. I wondered what had happened, perhaps they’d done too much ‘to me, to you’ and had driven off Bournemouth Pier, and were now getting their moustached towel dried.
Going to the bathroom, I dared look up. An army of about 20 small flies flew around the tank above my head. Maybe this was a Bush Tucker Trial and they’d be a gold star inside for camp? I grimaced. As I turned to leave the toilet attendant sultrily declared to me that no spray, no lay? and he sprayed Paco Rabanne in the air. I wish all it took to improve my connection with the opposite sex was a quick burst of perfume from a bloke in a toilet.
I pondered amongst joining the others on the dancefloor. I thought about tempting to do some eccentric arm movements, but I didn’t want the people of Halo thinking that I was having a seizure. Instead I bobbed up at down in tandem with everyone else.
I looked around to see hundreds of fresh faces, and started to realise my days of clubbing were on the wane. With matching shaved side haircuts, I kept on thinking if their parents knew they were staying out late.? They look pretty joyous, knocking back their Jagerbombs. How little did they know about forever being entangled in student debt, and having to schedule a daily chiropractor after years of looking neck down l at their phones.
Suddenly, the stage was rocked by the two comedy legends from Yorkshire – the Chuckle Brothers! Paul proclaimed I wanna hear you say “To You” to the crowd! “To Me,” they chanted back.
Barry meekly stood to the side, not sure what was going on. They disappeared upstairs and I got ingested into an almighty queue all the way up to the VIP area. I waited half hour, lost in a sea of people, some people squabbling over others allegedly pushing in. I thought the British people loved queues? Just give them a cup of tea, it’ll blow over.
Time passed, and having rejoiced with several random people just how exciting this was, I finally made it up to the top of the stairs and I could see Paul. Barry came up to about 4 feet so I had to assume he was up there too.
I was just steps away from meeting the comedic heroes of my childhood. Paul looked at me, bizarrely wearing sunglasses in a club. I fanned my face.
Should I say Oh dear Oh dear? Or maybe a cheeky rendition of No Slacking?. Instead I went over, and shook their hands like they were long-lost pals. In a sense they were. It felt very weird seeing people I grew up with but had not actually met, but if felt right. I put my arms around them and posed for a picture, praying inside that I didn’t blink.
Barry reminded me of my Nan. Short, silver-haired, his eyes filled with admiration.
He gave me a hug and wished me a good night. It was.
I meekly waved, too awkward to stop. I kept on going.
Just before I went around the corner, I heard their high pitched Welsh accents calling me back.
Where we met. Romantic?
“What’s you name?”
I introduced myself. My conversations skills hadn’t flourished at this stage in life, so I mostly listened or probably tried to quote funny phrases. We sat around talking for ages on various walls, pavements and benches. The redhead introduced herself as Jodie.
I just couldn’t take my eyes off her. Cute little freckles and a smile that could make even Michael Myers melt, she was also trying to become a goth. She spoke about her favourite bands who I pretended to be interested in. Luckily she didn’t challenge me on my lies.
For some reason, my accent changed to some weird hybrid of Scottish and Irish. I felt so self conscious with my posh English tones that bizarrely I tried to emulate the Welsh accent when I spoke, but results were clearly varied.
Anyway, the next day I was so excited, I couldn’t even sleep. We had exchanged numbers, and messaged through text speak.
was gr8 2cu 2day. ttyl x
You see, Facebook hadn’t been conceived yet, communication in the last decade was sparse. Our Social Media Lord Zuckerberg was to busy playing beer pong at university to steal our souls forever via social media.
My skin was trembling in anticipation at seeing Jodie the next day Butterflies fluttered around my stomach as I saw her with her friends. I hadn’t felt this euphoric since we had a week of inset days at school. I was being powered by the warm fuzzy feeling™.
We later both sat on the edge of a power grid in the middle of a car park. I had managed to pluck up the courage to hold her hand. Luckily she used some initiative and pulled me toward her and we kissed. Also luckily, I’d stopped wearing braces the year before.
Our first kiss – the beautiful location
Over the next few days, the rain came, where I cussed dramatically at the opening heavens. I didn’t see her for days. I messaged and called her but to no avail. I left cringey answer phone messages like ‘Are you coming out again… ever,’ but to no reply.
I was annoyed, and I gave my friend my phone in frustration and defeat. They had a go atcalling Jodie, she answered! I dived across and excitedly grabbed my Nokia 3510, almost foaming at the mouth to hear her squeaky welsh tones again.
I went over to hers the next day, and she introduced me to a band – Him. Him had recently introduced a new genre – Love Metal – to the world. (what’s next? Affectionate Rap? Cuddly Dubstep?) They infected the Kerrang! channel with soppy lyrics.
Their symbol was a heartagram – a satanic pentagram merged with a heart.
Happy songs included ‘Join me in death.’ It was the band at the time which made hormonally-enthused girls fall into a euphoric trance over Him’s Finnish lead singer.Considering he just looked like he’d been excavated from the Arctic Circle, he was this generation’s Edward Cullen or Justin Beiber or Paul Hollywood.
I went to one of their gigs that November, where the lead singer, Ville Valo, spent the whole night being attacked by various pieces of ladies lingerie thrown at him by lovestruck fans. Nothing beats singing whilst submerged in G-strings.
I still listen to their music, despite them having broken up. Their catchy music transcends time and I end up feeling like a confused, socially unliberated teenager again.
Me and Jodie also had our own song, as decreed by her friend. The lyrical genius that was Eamon. No not Eamon Holmes, but a pint-sized rapper who was allergic to grammar. Bubbling with extremities, it went straight to number one in the charts simply because a whiny guy was determined to include fuck and hoe in every lyric. Eamon takes his Bae, Frankie, for a pepperoni pizza, and rejects her after she cheats him, but wants him back. I feel the same about the European Union after Brexit, but hey ho.
Bizarrely, there was also a ‘Fuck you right back‘ response video where Frankie tells him he’s an asshole and deserved to be cheated on.
No wonder my generation turned out to be bonkers, with these role models.
Compared to Peter Andre’s creative nadir – Insania – which came out the same time, it was a lyrical genius.
I couldn’t get enough of Jodie and on my last day in Wales, we dramatically ran towards each other down the street and gave each other a massive hug and a kiss. I couldn’t wait to see her again.
Half term was 6 weeks away, so I carved the number 42 into my hand with a biro. 42 days until I could see those mesmerizing eyes and those cute freckles.
Many writing, smudging and washing of my hand followed. My long hair had reached my shoulders. My predicted AS Level grades were plummeting.
My journey into Gothical Rock imploded. I started to collect all the HIM albums, each with an obnoxiously gothical title or a picture of a hearse in the album cover.
Nauseously titled abums included ‘Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights’ ‘Razorblade Romance,’ and ‘Greatest Love Songs Volume 666.’ It had 66 tracks. Clever.
Whilst stalking Jodie’s Myspace profile, I began to like a band called Hawthorne Heights, their hit song contained the lyric ‘Cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight or die.’ What the fuck were they smoking? Surely crap like that should have a Samaritans hotline on the back of the album cover?
Yet I wasn’t a gothic. I was an alternative. Or something. The word Emo had not entered the lexicon yet, but I was probably the first.
Cradled around my Nokia, with its eternal battery life and Snake game a comfort, I stumbled around college then played video games in a lovestruck stupor. The beep of a new message sent me into an excitable frenzy.
The days on my hand got into the 30s, and then the 20s. My hand was a constant inky smudge. Then something happened. Out of nowhere I got this message.
"hey how's it goin? today I met this mint Him fan. And he just asked me out! x'
What what? With no experience with women, I didn’t quite get it. Was this a bizarre way to make me jealous or was she actually going out with someone else?
My older self would have told her ginger ass to jog on. However, I was a fool back then and probably would have told her I loved her and made her a mix tape.
The next day. My heart was beating as soon as I heard my phone beep. It revealed:
"I've met someone and I am with them now and can be with
you no longer. KIT, Jodie"
I staggered back and collapsed on my bed. I loaded up Final Fantasy X- video games provided an interactive world of escapism. Playing blitzball and attacking killer cactuses was a nice distraction from feelings and emotions.
KIT stands for keep in touch, I think.
Then the following happened.
"I never want to see you again, EVER'
My brick phone fell out my grip and almost indented the laminate flooring. I was speechless.
I had gone through a rollercoaster of naïve glee, to utter confusion, to complete shock and jealousy in a space of a week. The last message cut deep.
The only way I could regain any sanity was to write…. poems. As you can see, the Lyrics of Poison didn’t quite make it to the nominations of the World Poetry awards.
Weeks of moping later, I called her. My mum had gone into Homebase to find some discount patio slabs whilst I waited in the car. I was met on the phone by enthusiasm.
What had happened to the Mint HIM Fan? Fuck it, I didn’t ask. Apparently Jodie wanted to see me.
It was back on ! I was tempted to resurrect my hand ink tattoo. I later got a message to ask me if I was still coming up again.
I arrived in Wales, where I barely said Hi to Nan before I legged it to the park to see Jodie. I suddenly got a weird message
"In the park shagging James hard as fck. "
I was very confused. This girl should not be allowed to use a phone. When I arrived she seemed friendly She was with her friends, one of them circled around us continuously with rollerblades. Perhaps he was James. Or Mint Bloody Him Fan.
Her African friend took my phone and read one of my text messages from a mate in Bournemouth. My mate ended each message with the word FUCKER. Bizarrely, she interpreted this as me having a new girlfriend, but I quickly established this wasn’t the case. My friend FUCKER looked like a potato with hair for starters.
Me and Jodie’s reunion wasn’t as harmonious as our dramatic hug a few weeks back. Despite drowning in a metaphorical well of naivety, I was still surprised we hadn’t quickly rebooted our love affair. Then along came Benny.
Not much to shout about, Benny looked like he worked in a Fish and Chip shop, and was all over Jodie like a wasp near Tango. She was engaged by this newcomer, and I was confused why this guy was more attractive than I. To be honest I did smell of a dreaded concoction of Nan’s house of second hand smoke and Lynx Africa.
They flirted the whole day in front of me in the park, hugging and wrestling and kissing. My young self couldn’t really process Jodie and Benny. He did not know what was going on. I watched for a bit but couldn’t really cope. I was never that open with my family so I didn’t know who to talk about this. The last I heard was they were all going camping together and she was going to wear a Moulin Rouge costume. Apprently Benny tried to finger her.
I stumbled around, teary eyed. A hormonal mess. I think my young heart was broken.
I bumped into her African friend near the park, and I showed her some of my amazing poetry. It was a peculiar feeling showing some of the writings that I had written about Jodie. I pretended they were about someone else. There was also an anti-50 Cent rap which I composed, my new found songwriting ability traversing across the genres.
I buried myself into Him’s music in sadness. I tried to get all my friends into them but they couldn’t understand the melodic masterpieces such as the The Funeral of Hearts -(where angels cry blood). I then remodelled my entire room, and covered it in posters. Literally the whole wall was a mass of alcoholic rockstars, nubile women and horror films, it was a gothic puzzle.
I was the Kerrang! Picasso.
Best to ignore the Lostprophets posters.
I couldn’t hate Jodie despite everything. Girlfriends did follow, and each time I became a stronger person and walked away from sociopaths.
Moral of the story is, if you are a naive young teen, don’t expect anything from the Town Bike, even if she smiles at you.
I should have listened to Eamon’s masterpiece….
Vote in the poll below for your favourite worst moment!
Stunningly rich in historical architecture and breathtaking scenery, Barcelona awaited me. The city was alive with sun-drenched heat, splendid Sangria was ready to be drunk by a drunk, and playful palm trees swaying in the summer breeze.
After my horrendous time in Paris, I was long overdue a pleasant holiday experience. Sadly, this new experience would be birthed from everyone’ last favorite ivory labyrinth maze, Gatwick Airport, at 7 in the morning.
It was a Thursday night. Having worked all day in the fascinating world of administration, I boarded the bus at a yawn-inducing 00:40. It was a 3.5 hour journey to Gatwick, and my legs were all kinds of timey-wimey, squishy-squashy trying to fit in the coach seat. I’d have been more comfortable commuting in a medieval pillory.
I drifted off and began to dream about Paella, but the bumpy potholes of the M27 had other ideas, and I kept waking up in a half asleep haze wondering why I was not in my comfy bed.
We arrived at the airport at the ungodly time of 4am. I had to teach myself how to walk again after my legs had lost feeling.
The aeroplane split the 8 of us up across the cabin and we landed in Spain in the early sunny morning. It was a fairly quiet journey despite Stags, Hens and screaming babies.
We ventured forward until the great unknown of Barcelona. Unfortunately for us, tugging around our suitcases in the belting Spanish heat was fairly punishing. Our Air B’n’b wasn’t open until 3pm, so we had to drag our physical and emotional baggage across the marina.
Our toes fell into disrepair as we awkwardly wandered around aimlessly in search of salvation of water and ice cream. Sweat began to bead down on our pale English foreheads, our skin glistening. The Great British summer had lasted several days, and we were not used to the relentless humidity. We were about to reach breaking point until we stumbled upon a Tapas bar, inviting us in with the tantalizing scent of Cuttlefish, Patatas Bravas and Miniaturized Burgers.
Recharged, our next adventure was a food shopping trip. Sadly, fate had it in for us and the nearest Carrefour (the Spanish Asda) was an hour and 10 minutes walk, so we hopped onto the Metro instead to get some continental goodies for the next few days. We bought some chorizo, nectarines, cheeses, hams, bread and juice.
Our octogroup arrived at the house in a sweaty, hungry condition. With 8 mouths to feed, we devoured some snacks to keep our appetites at bay. We found cooking wasn’t easy- the main frying pan had the wrong coating and seemed to be kept purely for decoration, or simply to confuse hungry houseguests. We had a stove and a microwave, but no grill or oven. Luckily, we managed to create a yummy, scrummy chorizo, tomato and rice mix, using a large pot, that satisfied the bellowing rumbling inside our tummys.
Despite being up and awake for an incredible amount of hours, sleep wasn’t easy. The night-time humidity kept us up, and with no air conditioning, I feel like I was being ovencooked like a Sunday Roast. We came up with the cunning plan of pouring cold bottled water onto the bedsheets, then wiggling around in them to help cool us down.
5th August 2017
Refreshed, we set off to the Las Ramblas food market where I tried both ostrich and octopus. Despite the latter having spent it’s life ingesting more ink than a Biro, the octopus was surprisingly tasty.
Also guzzled down were freshly made fruit smoothies, cakes and rare Spanish pastries. Aware there was pickpockets, I put a padlock around my bag zips to prevent cheeky Spanish fingers stealing my possessions. Luckily, no one got anything pinched, despite a boy mischievously lurking around the market.
Refueled by tasty Spanish delicacies, we dabbled in some shopping and ventured toward the Sagrada Familia – an exquisite looking cathedral that is still being built 130 years in. Lazy builders huh?
Dying for water, we stumbled into the Picasso Cafe. Grabbing some drinks from the fridge and buying them at the counter, we sat down to rest. However, it turned out these drinks were takeaway prices and we couldn’t drink these in the cafe, so we got asked to leave. For workers who deal with confused tourists all day, they were quite rude and warranted a minus star on Trip Advisor. I went to purchase a couple of drinks but having seen my group be ushered out, I decided to put one back. The waitress barked at me and would only let me buy both. I stood my ground, and another waitress let me pay for the one I wanted.
As we stood in the queue for the Sagrada, bathing in the heat, I decided to buy some ice-cold bottle water from a guy who was chanting “1 Euro 1 Euro 1 Euro”. The bottle had so much ice that it could sink the Titanic, but I didn’t care as it cooled me down in the humid sun.
We then went into the Sagrada where we got our bags checked. One security guard got funny over my friend wearing a top that exposed to much shoulder, despite most other tourists wearing a lot less. I was tempted to rip my shirt off in protest and show a bit of nipple. We fathomed it was due to being respectful in a religious place, despite allowing food, drink, selfies and cleavage inside.
Talking of which, the interior boasted some great looking emblematic design and technicolor windows, but I felt a bit dismayed we couldn’t explore any of the other levels. We also went to peruse the flea market, dodging confusing Spanish drivers on the way as we braved crossing the manic roads.
In the evening, a group of rowdy Spaniards boarded the Metro with us. Whoever decided on selling them a megaphone? I wondered.
In addition, a drunk man with his glasses hanging off his face staggered about attempting to fight and/or grope people. These attractions hadn’t been advertised on the ‘Top10 things to Discover in Barcelona’ article I had read, so they were an unwelcome surprise.
As we survived our Metro experience, we indulged in Spain’s most well know dish – Paella! I ordered the Meat Metze, that involved chewy chicken, oysters, prawns and calamari. Those bits were great, but the rice itself wasn’t too yummy.
We then discovered our new vice – Sangria. After one sip, we were all hooked. From that point, we became Sangriaholics. The fruity zest of the red wine entwinned with delicious fruit sent my tastebuds into overdrive. It was cool, refreshing and for the first time in a while – I had found a drink that I can enjoy and get drunk on.
Many Sangrias and drunk Austin Powers impressions later, we headed off into the night to find the elusive Razmatazz nightclub, but upon entry, we found it was a cheeky €17 for entry. We were too exhausted to go elsewhere after a 40 minute trot, so we settled back to the house for the night.
6th August 2017
We kick-started this morning with sausages, bacon and egg, munching them down at the rooftop terrace. Our next destination was the free Picasso Museum.
Sadly, this venue only allowed a certain amount of visitors each day, so we missed out on a creative dabbling in classic artistic culture. Instead, we traversed off to the Montjuïc cable car.
A kind icecream vendor pointed us in the direction of it’s entrance. Half an hour walk away, we discovered that she had successfully pointed us in the opposite direction. With our feet still stinging after 2 days of bumbling around Barcelona, this was not good news for our toes.
Weary and grumpy, we split into two groups. Our group deciding to give Paddle-boarding a go, but we were put off by the cheeky €50 deposit pricetag. Instead, we ventured off to a cafe for more Sangria and tapas, followed by a trip to the beach. What was intriguing was that Barcelona beach was man-made for the Olympics, and didn’t exist until 1992.
Trying to change into trunks on the beach, without displaying a bit of nudity, isn’t the easiest idea, and involved a lot of awkwardness towel wiggling. Sam, cocooned in a giant fabric towel, did so, and was greeted by a group of Germans. “Hey Naked Boy! You want to come party with us tonight?” They shouted at him as he awkwardly squirmed around.
As we finally managed to trunk up, we went into the cool Spanish sea. Standing on the shore, the waves ambushed us and we went flying over each other when the water smacked us. It was quite an exhilarating experience. The waves were so strong, we’d collide into the sand and often end up submerged. The current then dragged us back in, facing us with another killer wave. My body was destroyed and soaked by the water, the taste of salt swashing around my mouth, but I gleefully kept going back in. It was the most fun I had in ages.
The beach was comprised of stones, so my swim shorts ingested about 50kg of small little pebbles. My pockets became laden with the buggers, and each time I walked, a short stream of little stones would tumble down my legs.
Spotting some amazing towel fabrics being sold across the beach, I thought I’d buy one to hang up in my bedroom. There were salesmen everywhere these, and others selling Mohitos, water and temporary tattoo’s. Knowing Sam got his fabric for €20, I was determined to find a bargain.
I asked if they were €10, and the men said there were €15. I said how about €12? They agreed. When I looked in my wallet, I grimaced, then said I only had €10, whilst I pretended to walk away in sadness. This technique let me get one for half the price at €10 as they called after me.
We arrived home so late that dinner – Bolognese Columbo – was served in midnight. We played Irish Snap, and Bullshit, followed by some homemade Sangria.
7th August 2017
It was waterpark day! We were very much looking forward to this after three days of toe bashing walking around Barcelona!
Sadly the queue system to the park proved immensely difficult. There was a queue to get your ticket signed, another to get your ticket stamped, and another to get into the park. It was frustratingly bizarre, and I felt the Chuckle Brothers may have had a hand in it’s design.
After making it through the entrance, a group of people were trying to sell us hula necklaces!
We then crammed 8 people’s worth of stuff into one locker, and went to enjoy the flumes and slides. One particular one was a long yellow slope, which would spurt water into your face and eyes as you tumble down – great for contact lens wearers. It would often pull you to one side, and you’d fly down at an awkward angle and end up hip first into the water below.
We really enjoyed the bucket. A giant bucket would slowly fill up with water. After a few minutes of tense building, it would tip over and splash everyone who stood underneath it. Despite getting absolutely pelted by cool water, it was quite fun!
Another ride we tackled was an inflatable double ring down a flume, though we had to queue up at the end then carry the ring the hill to have a go! Why they didn’t have a conveyor belt, taking the rings back up the hill, is beyond me. The walkways themselves were relentless underfoot – often slippy or stony, which would make walking around the park more terrifying than the rides themselves.
We all loved the wave machine, which lasted 5 minutes. After it finished, everyone would boo the staff dramatically, but they would just sit and smile. They were the Gods of the tides. We later played tag, sharks ‘n’ seaweed and did piggyback rides. I tried to do an underwater handstand, which proved quite difficult, so I ended up consuming chlorine and disenchantment.
My shoulders, despite 2 helpings of suntan lotion, developed a crispy red complexion due to the Barcelona heat. Despite the heat being double the temperature of Britain-Land, I failed to gain a tan, and merely came back with Lobster shoulders. After the park, we ascended an incredibly steep hill to enjoy the Gaudi architecture of the serene Park Guell.
A range of architecture awaited, we explored column pillars, towers, fairtytale houses and a multicolored mosaic salamander.
We discovered a few offensive messages, including ‘Tourists go home, ‘You are my misery,’ which were ultimately directed at us, although we were probably the most well-behaved tourist group I’ve ever known. The locals were fed up of overcrowding and crazy party goers, so in retaliation they were inflicting petty crimes against tourists. Such madness includedglueing locks and slashing tyres of travel coaches. Considering Spanish employment is incredibly low, and that tourism brings a much needed cash-injection to the Barcelona economy, it seemed quite controversial.
We had planned a Sangria- filled fiesta after out trip to Guell, but we decided after such an epic day, we retired to charge up for a last day in Spain!
8th August 2017
So this was it. The last day. How is it that office life drags, yeah holidays fade in a second?
We spent the morning being domestic goddesses, cleaning up the Casa and doing the washing up.
What followed was clothes shopping, where I got to discover the latest Spanish fashion. This wasn’t exactly trendy nor wearable- some men’s jumpers were covered in straps, which was far too bondage-y for my liking. We begrudgingly went to a trip to Barcelona’s finest make-up store. Which would have been a breeze if (a) I was a woman (b) I was a drag queen. Instead, me and my other bored compadre, Cameron, sat on a chair and read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. S
Surprisingly, to get into the store, there was a slide which descended into the entrance! How fantastic – this should be made mandatory in all stores, oh, how I would love to helter-skelter down into Holland and Barrett.
Famished by shopping, we gorged on some tasty pastries… only to find a cheaper, tastier patisserie 3 minutes down the road.
With our bags repacked, we waltzed to the airport, after wishing a tearful ‘adious’ to our Barcelona house. Security checks were a disaster – someone had planted a water bottle in Sam’s bag, Cerys had to take off her shoes multiple times, and I got my bottle opener taken away.
To get over my loss, I bit down into a tasty McDonald’s near the Duty Free. As usual, I was probably the only person in the establishment to order a salad. My theory is that if I pour the salad into the burger, making it bulge with greeny goodness, than the fatty badness will be neutered slightly. Or something. Well my stomach was convinced anyway!
The flight back was fairly smooth, thought it was slightly delayed. Our bus back was at 22:15, and we touched down in England at 21:35. Plenty of time right?
Oh no. We were running out of time and fast.
The walkway from the plane to the exit of Gatwick was a never ending labyrinth vortex of horror. After every corner, there was another corridor. As time ticked down, I grabbed my suitcase and ran down the travelators, terminals and check ins.
We then got to passport control. On the right was UK/EU passports, the other side said UK border all passports. I wasn’t sure which one to go in, but my friend confirmed it was the left hand one.
Oh how wrong she was!
20 minutes in the queue, I stood there looking gormless. Our other friends – who had left the plane much later than us – were casually strolling into the other queue, which turned out to be the right one. I was in the queue for Americans and Russians. ублюдок.
I flipped into the right queue, only for the passport reader not to register with my brand spanking new passport (my old one had got lost in the post on the way to the Passport Office…)
At 22:08, the minutes were ticking away! I was ushered to another check-in desk, got through, rushed up to the next corridor, turned left, ran up the stairs, went out the arrivals area, turned right, went down in the lift and finally got to the coach with a couple of minutes to spare!
The journey back was a mere 3.5 hours, where I attempted to watch EastEnders (you’re not my mother…yes I am!) on my phone, but National Express Wi-Fi was temperamental at best!
Feeling the economic pinch? Recently opened your wallet or purse, only to find crumbs, with no sign of coppers? Times are tough – just look at the humble Freddo and his outrageous 25p price tag. I mean – what is this madness?
So for those feeling money strains, here are some up tried and tested ways to save money – so you can spend it on stuff you love!
Befriend everyone you meet – particularly catering staff. They deal with demanding managers and your disregarded lunch remains. Most customers are grumpy or consider eye contact a crime.
So why not engage staff with small talk and a smile each lunch time, it could make a big difference. They might accidentally throw you some extra Baked Beans along the way because they like you.
We love to feel appreciated, so a compliment or chat can make our day. This applies also to bar workers, bus drivers, taxi drivers and shop workers. They may even let you off if you’re 5p short!
Oh and thanks for the free banana the other day, you know who you are 😉
2. Student Cards, Wowchers, O2 Priority Moments, Tesco Clubcard points, Parking Tickets with McDonald’s Vouchers on the Back.
Fancy a meal with loved ones? Or bagged yourself a hot date?
Then I recommend researching which tasty eatery in your area has the best offers that will give your purse a breather. Simply perusing the web beforehand can save often help you save money. I recently had 40% off my bill at Pizza Express due to a flash of my NUS card.
I know you want Pimms, Prosecco or a Pineapple Juice with your meal, but drinks really add those extra digits to the bill. A main course is roughly about £10, so I recommend hiring a jug of water for your table! It’s refreshing, healthy and helps you digest your food. Tips optional :p
4. Become the Yellow Sticker Warrior
You may have to fight off some fellow bargain vultures, as most supermarkets have a discount section. Find out the time the stafft reduce their stock and get to the aisle for some cheeky reductions.
If you can’t find this area, look out for a pimply teen Tesco worker, equipped with a handheld sticky-label machine. He will likely look terrified whilst surrounded by a swarm of discount-frenzied shoppers.
5. Use your Freezer, Your New Bff.
You can freeze pretty much everything. That 99p mince you bought with the Yellow discount sticker? Bung it into your Hotpoint or Polar G595. Which leads us onto our next tip…
6. Make Mega Meals, and Spread Them Across the Week.
Fancy a good idea to save time, ingredients and energy? I once made a cauldron’s worth of Bolognese. I threw in 2 boxes of mince and 3 can’s worth of chopped tomatoes, mushrooms and sliced onion (not as healthy as the gif above sadly). I then split these into several different Tupperware boxes. I popped these into the freezer to save them for another day or week. Tupperware can be your secret weapon in saving food for another day. There was Spaghetti Bolognese, Jacket Potato Bolognese and even Bolognese wraps. While you’re at it, make a…
7. Food Diary
Plan out what you’re going to eat across the week. This really helps when purchasing ingredients, and thinking what other dinners you can create with them.
This website helps you create new meals based on what leftover bits and pieces you have in your kitchen. http://myfridgefood.com/
I’m having bacon and cheddar potatoes tonight…
8. Buy in Bulk
Take advantage of supermarket offers. Toothpaste for £1 ? Buy 5. Herbal Tea, buy 1 get 2 free? Get 10!
You won’t have to stock up on Toothpaste or Tea for a long time, and you’ll also beat the inevitable inflated rates of Toothpaste of the future. I once scoffed at a friend who had 10 Listerine bottle stocked up, but now I’m thinking he was actually being quite clever.
Caution this does no work on items with short sell by dates. Obvs.
9. Don’t Fool for Supermarket Manipulations
Millions are spent by supermarkets to strategically drain the money out of your wallet.
Whilst waltzing through Waitrose, look high and low to find out supermarket bargains. The items that are most profitable for them tend to be in your direct line of sight, whilst the offers aren’t eye level.
Have you ever noticed bright and nice smelling fresh fruit and veg is stocked near the entrance, whilst essentials – milks, egg and cheese are hidden at the back. Checkouts strategically place cheap small things next to them. These innocent things are part of their big scheme to keep you in there for as long as possible. The longer you’re there, the more you will buy! Stick to your shopping list. Get in, get out, done.
10. Say ‘No’ to Ice
Oh hey. Is that you at the bar crying at the price of a £5 vodka and coke? A lot of clubs and pubs love filling up your beverage with enough ice that could take down the Titanic. It keeps it chill, but heavily diluted and remarkably content free. Even in the sheer cold of winter (or summer in our case), they’ll happily turn your cocktail into a Slush Puppy.
Say no to the ice. If you’re really hardcore, say no to the mixer as well.
(Please drink responsibly by the way!)
11. Become Your Own Personal Accountant.
I know this may seem lame, but keeping track of your ingoings and outgoings can really pay off. You can find where the big bucks are going to. If you collate all your direct debits, your bills and memberships, it will give you an idea on how to keep prices down.
12. Buying Online?
Here’s an interesting technique to save money whilst online.
Add your purchases to your online basket, and click through the various stages of the checkout process. Before you click BUY – stop, maybe even go to bed. Chances are, you may receive an email from the website, who are flummoxed by your indecision. They will send you a discount to make sure you follow through and complete your transaction!
13. Haggle With Your Providers
If you’re thinking of leaving an Internet, Satellite or Insurance service provider due to increasing high costs, then play hard ball. Contact them to say that regretfully you will be looking elsewhere for a cheaper deal with a rival company.
In a lot of cases, they will try to keep you on board by cutting your current price down and possibly throwing in extras. You have proved your loyalty to them, and they won’t want to lose you to a competitor.
14. Compare the Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerkat
Thank you Sergei! Always check your comparison sites when looking up contracts or buying big purchases. This works with all types of contracts and insurances, I think it’s a fantastic idea to shop around. Don’t be be fooled by advertising such as DON’T MISS OUT and LIMITED TIME ONLY – it’s marketing twoddle that convinces you that offers are urgent.
15. Online Shopping
If you’re buying something online, a Google Image Search might do you great steed. An identical product on Amazon might be cheaper on Ebay. Simply right click and choose ‘Search Google For Image.’ On the search, it will come up with a list of different websites to buy from.
Take Mr Root’s sauce above for example, right click on that Saucy stuff.
With a Google search by image, one retailer offered it at £1.60, another £1.49 and one supermarket has it at just £1! It doesn’t hurt to be a little crafty!
16. Have a Dinner Party, Bring a Dish
Instead of going out for a meal with friends, why not have a little cook off session at home? Get all your guests to bring something to contribute to the dinner (perhaps a bottle of Blossom Hill Wine or a box of After 8’s) and you can cook something truly wonderous for a fraction of the price.
You can choose the furniture, the music, and there is no tip required! Some friends might even be open to do the washing up after.
17. Don’t Use the Gym, Park It!
Don’t fancy being tied into a scary gym contract? Then channel your inner Phoebe!
Many people I know are still in year-long contracts, and end up going twice. Instead, I recommend turning your outside world until your own fitness kingdom. Most London parks have equipment which you can use, whilst there is plenty of greenery (or beaches if you’re really lucky) where you can run through and build up your stamina. It’s a lot more exotic than literally going nowhere on a treadmill.
18. Share Lifts With Colleagues
This is a good way to shave petrol costs and bond with Arnold from Administration. Share rides to work with a colleague, and contribute towards the mileage. As long as there’s no impromptu singing whilst in a traffic jam, it’s a fantastic way to half the costs of driving and save fuel and resources.
19. Get On Yer Bike.
Another way to save petrol is to get a bicycle. Drivers may hate you, but as well as saving you cash, it is keeping you fit.
Just make sure to take off the stabilizers once you’ve mastered it.
20. Book Train Fares As Far In Advance As Possible.
We know train privatization is an absolute bugger, and some fares are horribly expensive. Bournemouth to London single fare at £54? No thanks. Well, unless I can go using First Class or actually have a go at driving the train myself.
You can get much better prices if you book in advance. Some trains journey even have 75% off their price if you know what time and date you’re going. Also, consider National Express coaches for a sometimes cheaper alternative. All aboard the Coach Trip!
21. Track Down Cheap Parking
Cheap parking is a road based miracle. Luckily these guys have constructed a website which lists paid parking spaces in your area, as well as how much they cost.
Again, the Internet has saved the day. Find out which Petrol Station is cheapest in your area, by researching who is giving you the best rates. It finds you the cheapest, average and most expensive price for your petrol needs. https://www.petrolprices.com/
23. Sell Old Belongings Online.
Remember that old Tamogotchi you bought for a £5 at Toymaster back in the Nineties? Some oddball out there might pay you over £100 if it’s in mint condition. Collectors love all sorts of stuff, and the better the state, the more they’ll spend. Classic comics, McDonalds toys, Pogs, Furbies, Movie Posters… someone out there might want to splash their cash in the stuff lingering in your attic.
Avoid those tasty treats being promoted outside Screen 9. Prices are often trebled for the luxury of being in close proximity to your movie. Consider getting some cheaper snacks beforehand (we’re talking Costcutter Toffee Popcorn 200g)
This also applies to expensive snacks in trains, planes and events. Beware their ‘tax.’
25. Go Dutch on Dates.
Splitting the bill 50/50 is a fantastic way to save some cash. There is no need to splash away your fortunes when sharing a romantic evening with candlelight. You shouldn’t need to treat someone to a full-blown meal when your company is amazing enough….right?
26. Stockpile Sachets, Hotel Soap, Freebies and Samples.
Take advantage of every free little thing you receive. Hotel shampoo and bodywash mini bottles can be taken home, and condiment sachets can be stockpiled so you don’t have to fork out for a bottle of Heinz.
27. If Travelling Through London, Rent a Boris bike or Get an Oyster Card
When going to London, you will be faced by many things – blocked traffic, swarms of tourists and possibly a rotating Boris Johnson. Yet the most scary thing you will discover is how expensive everything is.
One common mistake new travellers make is to fork out for a All Day Travelcard, which is a hefty £12. Instead, buy yourself an Oyster Card, which will give you a lot more control over what you spend and a lot of the journeys prices will be capped.
Another idea is to rent a Boris bike to ride across London. An activation free costs £2, and the first half hour on the bike is free! It is £2 per half hour thereafter.
28. Get Friendly With the Neighbours.. Split the Internet bills and Share the Wi-fi Costs/Netflix
This is an interesting one. Providing you have a good relationship with your neighbours (consider not buying a drum kit) then you can save money by sharing the connection costs. As long as the Wi-fi signal is strong enough, you could share it and pay a certain amount towards it. Netflix accounts allow up to 5 people to sign in, so again, maybe you should make a deal with the people next door.
29. Run Out of Call Credit? Skype, Facebook Calling and Facetime Provide Free Calls.
People often forget that video calling on the above channels is free. Just don’t forget to put some clothes on first before your call Auntie Glenda in New Zealand…
30. Youtube Teachers- Music Instructors, DIY, Recipes etc.
Instead of forking out for a teacher, plumber or chef, consider using YouTube.
There is literally a video on how to do anything – from how to apply makeup, or how to dance in a nightclub, and even how to make your own origami Yoda.
Try must you should!
31. Shop Out Of Season.
Buy your Christmas decorations in January, and your Halloween goodies in November. (Caution: Don’t try this with Valentine’s Day, the other half might not be amused)
A good time to buy your coats and jackets for the Winter is on the cusp of Summer, where clothing companies are trying to clear this stock.
32. Learn to Sew
Instead of replacing clothes that have formed holes in them (what have you been doing?) then simply stitch them back up again. Clothes can be given a new lease of life despite some accidental wear and tear.
What happens if you don’t know how to sew? Look for a YouTube tutorial of course!
33. Marry a Rich Person
‘Fall in Love’ with a wealth Oil Baron or Rich Property Developer. Simply marry them, get a quickee divorce and don’t sign a pre-nutial agreement.
Only joking about this of course, we all have morals. Yet I’m sure we’ve all thought about it, right?
34. Libraries: Your New Entertainment Hub.
Have you been to your local library recently? All the cool kids hang out there.
There are thousands of free books to borrow, so instead of buying your latest Mills and Boon novel, head down to the local library to rent it out for free. This also applied to CDs, games and DVD’s. Heck they’ve even got free Wi-Fi if you haven’t managed to cut a deal with your neighbour yet.
35. Charity shop
Yes, if you live in England, no doubt they will be a charity shop somewhere within the next square mile. Who needs TopMan when you have Oxfam ?
Yes, the shops often have a musty scent, but a lot of them have hidden treasures that someone used to love. You might even find a nice suit there if you thinking of dressing like Dr Who.
36. Fancy Free Education?
No, I’m afraid Tuition fees haven’t been scrapped
However, you can do a variety of courses online for free. From Physical Theatre, Film Making to Robotics, there’s something to learn for everyone, and you can go at your own pace. Have a look yourself at https://www.futurelearn.com/
37. Use a Spare Change Piggy Bank
Keeping your spare change in a box or piggy bank is a great way to save some money if you need some coins urgently. A technique I used was to empty out a Whisky bottle (not hard) and use it to hold the coins I had collected for a few years. Eventually, it amounted to over £50, which I was very pleased about.
Even if it doesn’t amount to anything, having a bundle of coins is great for parking ticket machines or for buying a bus ticket.
38. I am the VIP / High-Vis man
Ever wanted to get into a club or event for free? Then play dress-up and pretend you’re part of the action. Whether that be coming with a professional looking camera, or wearing a lanyard or sexy High-Vis vest, bouncers or staff don’t often bat an eyelid if you look official enough.
39. Print Me Baby One More Time.
If your printer is depleted of black ink, then just change the text color of your document to dark blue. This method means you’ll be able to print a few more times before you need to replace the ink cartridge
40. Get Cashback When You Spend.
Some sites offer cashback when you spend money. An example is Quidco, a website which takes the commission usually paid for by retailers and referrers, and instead gives is straight to you!
Miles and miles of glorious, legendary beaches.
Imagine yourself walking barefoot, playfully feeling the silky sand envelop your toes. Feel the cool sea water lapping over your body, and then splash around the Dorset coast with glee.
You start inflating your dinghy, it feels like a great chance to float off down to Poole and play Sailor.
Suddenly, the sky opens with an unapologetic roar!
There’s rain. Cold. Wind.
Everyone is running off the beach to fearfully huddle under a shop doorway. Knowing our country, this could be November weather… or June.
What is their to do in a town, famed for it’s sunny beach, when the weather gets a little wet and wild? Here are top 5 alternative things to do in Bournemouth when it’s raining.
This aquarium is a home to all kinds of marvellous sea creatures, without having to bring yous scuba gear to see them. Behold a variety of marine life including tropical fish, stingrays, crocodiles, iguanas, starfish and even some bearded dragons. Down in the depths of the Oceanarium is an underwater glass walkway, which gives the opportunity to look at some of the Ocean’s finest creatures. Look up with awe whilst inside tunnel, as you may see a shark swim right over you!
The Oceanarium was recently upgraded with the creation of the Penguin Beach Encounter, so why not waddle your happy feet over to meet them. This custom built environment was designed to replicate the Penguin’s natural surroundings, with plenty of space for them to nest and play. The Oceanarium also provides feeding experiences for a variety of mammals, enabling visitors to prepare some tasty special snakes to feed these penguins, as well as otters and turtles.
A cafe serving up refreshments, including hot and cold snacks, is the perfect epilogue to a fantastic voyage of all things under the sear. There is also a gift shop where you can buy furry versions of your favourite aquatic friends!
The Rock Reef consists of 4 exciting areas, the Clip ‘N’ Climb, the Pier Zip Line, The Pier Cave and the Highline. It’s the perfect opportunity to show off to your date your amazing climbing abilities. The Clip ‘N’ Climb is an Adrenalin pumping experience, involving 28 climbing walls, each with their own level of difficulty. The Highline features Swing Logs, Free Beamer, the Cross Logs, Hi-Low Steps, Cargo Net, Tunnel and the Slope Walk. It tests your agility, flexibility and climbing prowess, with different activities to engage with for an exhilarating vertical experience.
A sheer vertical slide allows people to choose how high they want to slide down from. There is also the Leap of Faith. For the brave, a jumping challenge to a hanging beam awaits.
Feeling wacky, wild and wonderful? Make a splash at The Splashdown Water Park, which is something for all the family to enjoy, from little ones to big kids. This leisure complex boasts 13 thrilling flumes. From the relaxing inner tube ride of the Mississippi Drifter, to the exhilarating thrill jaunt that is The Screamer, there is an experience for all fun seekers. Other rides include the Zambezi Drop, the Tennessee Twister and Nefarious Dragon’s Lair. For the more cultured, there is the Infinity ride, where sliders spiral inside a bowl to music of their own choosing.
For the more relaxed individual, there is the bubble bench and jacuzzi, where you can unwind in a warm, inviting environment.
Billed as ‘Serious Fun with a Laser gun‘ this immersive experience certainly lives up to the hype.
The concept is to zap the other players with your futuristic laser super gun, accumulating points with the goal to amass the best score. Don’t dance with delight though, it might be the chance for revenge from someone you zapped earlier.
Before entry, you are given a full safety briefing. You are equipped with a body pack and a state-of-the-art laser gun. Once you enter the arena, the music starts and the adrenaline kicks in. Set in a labyrinth style are with turrets, lighting effects and swirling fog, the stage is set for a legendary laser battle.
There are several game types including Solo, All Against All, and team battles.
A wealth of art and sculpture adorns this museum and gallery, whilst the knowledgeable staff provide expertise and knowledge of its classical heritage. With a beautiful, contemporary Victorian design, it is quite simply an architectural triumph that has stood the test of time. The buildings were an illustrious gift from Mr Russell – Coates to his wife (husbands, take note!) and is one of the last Victorian houses to be built in England. The couple collected fantastic artworks during their marriage, as well as artifacts and souvenirs from their adventures in America, India and Egypt, of which have come to reside at the museum.
Collections have included sculptures, a wealth of British art, pottery, glass plates and the Venus Verticordia.
The museum holds events throughout the year, including tours, exhibitions and fayres. Such occasions give you a rich insight of the past as well as provide an educational and entertaining environment for all ages.
It is estimated 1 in 5 of us will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in our lives. Depression is one of the most common, and some have described is as feeling helplessly alone and even numb to emotions, whilst joyful things may no longer even raise a smile. Sometimes they lack the motivation to get up in the morning… or even the afternoon.
Thrust into a digital society, adverts gleefully tell us how communication and technology are bringing us together, whilst social media drives home the notion that instant gratification and likability are the key to a successful life. Hmm.
A simple Google search will reveal that there has been a steady rise in mental health concerns, particularly amongst youngsters. Surprisingly, many often do not communicate this to their loved ones due to fear of the isolation or stigma for seeming ‘weak’ or ‘crazy.’ Yet what causes this? Job stress? Breakups? A significantly bad life event? More often than not, sometimes there seems like there is no cause.
How does it feel to be depressed? Some have described it to me as if they were drowning in a negative rip tide, whilst I feel it is more akin to a ravenous, hideous monster. It is constantly nourishing itself on me, absorbing my glee and positivity in it’s hunger for happiness. I punch, kick, karate chop and shout obscenities at it. Startled and bemused, it bellows out a laugh and then consumes me even more. I’m probably not even that yummy, yet I just feel so trapped in it’s jaws.
Have you ever felt like you are trapped by a depressive beast or you are somewhat sinking into the abyss, then I think it’s time to get you the happiness you deserve! Here are some tried and tested ideas. There is no ‘be yourself’ style rubbish , or ‘patience is a virtue’ type sayings that come sputtering out the lips of a know-it-all relative. I’ve done my time in the metaphorical temple of doom, and I want to share with you how I began to find my escape.
1. Talking to someone.
When you feel isolated, depression deepens. When I’m alone in my room, I feel that is when the mental darkness gets its foothold on me. I lie on my back, void of feeling and I don’t know what do. I don’t want to go out. I feel like my motor of life has burnt out and I simply have no future.
Experts have found that spending time with loved ones and people you care about enhances general self esteem and keeps negative thoughts at bay. Through my experiences, embracing time with friends who are warm, comforting and understanding have really helped raise my spirits. Avoid the ones who say, “You’re just in a bad mood. Get over it.” Also, sarcastic acquaintances aren’t the best ones to open up to.
Opening up to people you trust can really support you in a time of need. A metaphorical shoulder to cry on can really help the burden of life and the feeling of overwhelm.
Ideally, we’d have these people on standby each time we feel down. However, life happens, meaning they might be not around when you need them. There are many charities available to support you such as The Samaritans, It’s Your Choic and Steps 2 Wellbeing. They give you the opportunity to talk freely and confidentially, and provide emotional support when life gets tough.
2. Listening to music
Did you know music has been used as a survival technique? Many years ago, native tribes sung and danced in a collective which raised group morale and built loyalty amongst the tribesfolk. It also warded off possible outside threats.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to live around a camp fire or wear feathers in your hair to get the full musical affect. Instead, load up the Ipod, switch on the vinyl or check out a Youtube playlist to listen to your favourite songs. Enjoy them. Loud.
How do tunes help tackle depression exactly? Music releases dopamine in the brain, a feel good chemical, that reinvigorates a saddened soul. Music also works on the automotive nervous system, which affects both your blood pressure and heart beat. Studies have concluded that the health of those who suffer from high blood pressure or anxiety has improved after listening to music.
I made a playlist on my phone which features my favourite tracks, most are circa 1995. This features Oasis, The Cardigans, Magic! and more embarrassingly, the musical talents of Cindy Lauper and Aqua. Cheesy music I find the most effective from my experiences and if you are feeling really brave, then singing along to your favourite song can really boost your spirits. Experts say that engaging with your music releases endorphins, whilst the deep breathing required to sing draws more oxygen into the blood and causes better circulation. Actual talent not required!
3. Physical Exercise
When you wallow in the darkness of depression, the least thing you might want to do is slip on some Lycra for a 5k sprint down the high street or dare go to a ‘Calorie Cruncher’ class. Fitness however, can do absolute wonders for your brain. Ideally 3 days a week of exercise (I know, I know) can really pump up the body and improve breathing, stamina and mental wellbeing.
Doing something physical again releases endorphins and triggers a positive response from the brain. The focus of building muscle, trimming fat and staying in shape redirects attention from negativity and enhances general productivity. Taking part in a sport also allows you to meet new people, whilst the activity can regulate the nervous system and help prevent the destruction of brain cells that are caused by depression. It’s a win-win.
How can you not have a big goofy smile on your face when doing a star jump?
4. Shiny Happy Post-it Notes
Refrain from chuckling, but little notes of positivity can really go a long way in getting you through the worst of the day.
I have used a motivational quote on my phone background, as well as a series of cleverly placed positivity packed post-it notes. (Try saying that out loud.) Humans (that’s us) thrive on appreciation and acceptance, and sometimes the people (i.e. bosses/significant others) don’t always remind us how amazing we actually are.
I have found writing down a positive thing I do each day, really helps me identify fantastic things that I have done, whether that be giving some pennies to a homeless person or donating my last Rolo to Renarto in the office. The mental power of depression deviously trains the brain to funnel out positiveness from the past. This leads us onto the next top tip…
5. Remember Positive Memories More
When I feel depressed, all I can feel is moany, miserable thoughts. “I’m not going anywhere in life,” or “I feel so alone,” or even, “I’m not good enough.”
When these bad boy thoughts are swirling in my head, I start to believe them, which has led to self destructive behavior and a symptom that I call ‘moping’. I feel I’m completely oblivious to some fantastic and positive memories that have happened in the past.
I r recommend building what I call a memory wall. Add in photographs, motivational mottos and souvenirs of events that really make you smile and think fondly over past achievements. For instance, I have a large collage of my time at Camp Starfish, where I spent a brilliant summer in America working at a summer camp for very unique children. I even have a can of Axe (a US version of Lynx) that I bought over there, it’s scent reminds me of one of the happiest few months of my life.
However low you may feel, don’t forget how much of an amazing person you really. Appreciate yourself, and remind yourself of all the things you have achieved so far!
If you want to share your experience in tackling depression, feel free to write in the comment box below.
….And we kissed, and suddenly everything was amazing.
And it was.
I was young, unjaded. My biggest worries were contemplating wearing beige chinos or untagging myself in dubious photos of me looking hammered.
Trying to maintain a long distance relationship is not easy. It’s like an orgasm. It’s fantastic when it happens, but it doesn’t come around enough.
You want to hold that person in you arms for a hug or cuddle or, if you’ve been paying them the right compliments and have cheekbones as delectable as mine*, a cheeky fumble. To travel 200 miles to hold someone’s hand, however, just doesn’t feel right. Like Instagram validation and all you can eat buffets, you want lots of it and you want it now.
*This is bullshit btw
We spoke on Skype most nights, sometimes until 4am, saying goodnight as the birds sang good morning. While the milkmen were loading up their floats and various TOWIE stars were stumbling out of nightclubs, we were chatting far into the night about how much we loved each other and the excitement of seeing each other in 26 days.
In order to get a good connection, I had to perch on the landing, often tripping over cables to get some precious Wi-Fi bandwidth to talk to my e-girlfriend. I felt like the third wheel between her and my temperamental Broadband connection.
Once I had a glass of water near the laptop, a great idea for pre-Skype hydration, but I tumbled over a wire and knocked over said water, sending a short splash over my keyboard. After this unwanted lubrication, I could no longer use the W and O keys.
Imagine trying to tell friends online you have recently found a great woman.
I did some research and followed Google’s advice and used a hairdryer to dry the buttons to prevent further letter corruption.
Sadly the hot air ended up fusing the keys and I raised an angry fist at the Internet’s lack of wisdom. Eventually each letter died until the only impact I could make was via the space bar.
It’s hard to tell someone you love them without vowels and consonants.
Staying up to 4am also meant mornings were unloved. I once awoke to my manager phoning me up asking where I was. I should have been at work half an hour before, but had been fast asleep in bed.
Another stipulation to long distance, particularly with a University First Year, was seeing your girlfriend get ready to go party at various liver intoxication events during Freshers’ Week. With events called ‘Carnage’ and 18 year old boys who have recently been released from their family nests, it didn’t fill my mind with the greatest joy.
It was difficult to see her make herself look pretty on Skype with me before she went out. I wasn’t much of a party animal at the time, so I’d be left watching Skins Series 5 (a form of self-punishment) back in England whilst she was dancing her socks off at a sticky club floor. I might receive a drunken message or an incoherent picture of a z-list celeb or Hollyoaks guest star who’d turned up for a paid appearance.
Sadly the quality of celebrity appearances have diminished since then. #gotnofans
One such event I’m glad she didn’t partake in was a sports team drinking event. The social club’s rules were that you would be handcuffed to a Third Year student rugby player whilst dressed as a sheep. Then you would spend the night drinking copious amounts of liquor. You would be penalised if your drink cup was empty, with the added bonus of having to drink a shot with every sip. Even Phil Mitchell would find this to be hardcore.
One time I came back from a late swimming session to find a text message saying from her ‘I kissed someone.’ I almost stumbled back into my locker.
Someone had stolen her phone and sent this, and she had apologised profusely. I didn’t know how to talk to her the next day as it was such a confusing situation. She was terrified at the thought of losing me over this. Regardless of whether this cuckoldry was true or false, it was hard to find the words to say back.
Despite this incident, or non-incident as it could have been, we moved on.
At one point later in our relationship she was coming out of Popworld whilst on the phone to me. She had just seen Jay from The Inbetweeners riding his post-movie fame and posing in photographs interlocked between various female forearms. She was trying to find her friends and was feeling a bit dry in the post-apocalyptic world of a closing 3am Welsh nightclub.
I could hear some guy (not Jay, who was probably too busy being knee deep in clunge) come up to her and offered her some support.
“Hey, you thirsty? You have my drink!” he said, in what I think was an Indian accent. This kind gentleman offered her some of his canned lemonade. Such a Samaritan.
She then started to feel a bit off-colour, but presumed it was the copius amount of Jagerbombs she got on the latest 6 for £10 student deal. She began to feel faint and drowsy. She left to go somewhere else to find her friends and luckily bumped into a housemate.There are no words to express how it feels having your girlfriend get her drink spiked 200 miles away, whilst you are helpless on the other end of the phone hearing it happen.
I could barely sleep.
Luckily, her mate had managed to take her back. She spent most of the next morning and midday in a deep slumber, being nursed back to reality by her housemate who gave me a reassuring phone call. I wanted to be there for her instead, but I couldn’t.
The thing is, when you’re head over heels with someone then the above instances don’t matter. You just bury them in the deep recesses of your head, they gnaw away at you but you’re to busy preparing for your loved one’s royal visit. When we saw each other it was electrifying; we had curry nights, deep emotional chats and watched The Human Centipede. Nothing quite beats a romantic night in with Chicken Jalfrezi, poppadoms and people being sewn together ass-to-mouth .
Sure, long distance is mightily unrealistic and deep down, like Communism and my singing career, you know it’s not going to work. You get so drawn into the bubble that you can’t stop. Ironically enough, we talked to each other far more than short-distance (is that the term?) couples do.
At some point, things changed. She hadn’t told her family about me until months in. I fathomed they didn’t exactly approve of our holiday romance turned cross-country love story.
It was at this point I realised she was an integral part of my life. I had initially been standoffish about a relationship, but she had won me over and we even updated our Facebook relationship status. Now I’d feel incomplete if I didn’t hear from her or look lovingly at her digitised face over Skype.
Little by little, her communication petered away. There were fewer love notes, drunken phone calls and messages. Conversations became picture memes. One time she muted me on Skype as I was embarrassing her.
I felt funny. My heart was numb. I was confused. I couldn’t eat. Fuck, this was bad. I was pretty much checking off a teenage heartbreak checklist, but I was too old for this angst and confusion. I went to see my Dad, whose not the most emotional. I couldn’t tell him how I was feeling, but I found myself asking him loads of questions about himself to try and fill any potential silence, and to take my mind off of her.
We had our first conversation where she told me she wanted to ‘step back’ in regards to our growing relationship. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but it wasn’t a good sign.
I had booked a week off work to see her in Wales. She was going to teach me how to like Christmas, a nauseous event that comes around way too quickly each year. Sorry everyone, I’m one of those people! We were to go to Winter Wonderland and I was going to spend my time at the ice-rink holding onto the sides.
Things weren’t right. Our last phone call was her in the toilet at Club Destiny. We had barely spoken the day before I was coming up.
I went to my room and loaded up Skype. The opening tune of it no longer had the chirpy and fun connotation I used to enjoy.
The image of the love-lorn lady with a big smile on her face, calling me babe, was now a weeping mess of an angel.
I knew it was the end before she opened her mouth.
She expressed how she hadn’t been completely honest to her family about me, and how she was struggling to fit me into her university life when I lived so far away. I understood completely as deep down, I knew this was impossible to maintain long-term.
I don’t really remember what we spoke about, but for the first time, we were realistic adults, which wasn’t good.
Like a celebrity’s career after Operation Yewtree, it was all over.
I felt numb, confused. She continued to cry. I may had too. We said goodbye.
I went down to the living room and sat down in exhaustion with such force I almost took out the long curtains traipsed along the floor.
The next few days were a nightmare to say the least. The leftover feelings after constant communication had ended. I now had 5 days off work to dwell and ruminate over the situation, and a bundle of Christmas presents for her, now for me. What the hell do I do with a faux Pandora bracelet, and a belly bar for a navel piercing?
The morning after I stumbled down with a friend to the festive outdoor bar, complete with talking moose, and ordered myself a stiff Jagermeister. The automated moose told jokes, possibly realising I was in a bad way and needed some hilarity
My post break up therapist
“What has antlers and sucks blood?” it exclaimed. “A moose-quito!”
Later, we began talking intermittently. (No, not me and the moose)
She had been out with other suitors, and at one point coldly told me about these. She later apologised for these confessions and admitted her behaviour had been all over place. She admitted she still had strong feelings for me and if I had lived closer, things could be different.
For some reason, we met up a few months later. I booked a train to Cymru for a catchup. I counted sheep along the way, but lost count.
Our reunion was a very strange experience, we had only seen each other through rose-tinted spectacles before. At first she We bantered for hours, and as we shared ice-cream and cheesecake, our lips found each other as they had done so many times before. As we went to bed and I began to drift off, she shyly said ‘I still love you.‘
Things just weren’t quite the same and I didn’t know how to act or feel with someone I once shared L-Bombs with. There was awkwardness and arguments, but eventually we fell in love all over again, albeit briefly. She spoke about meeting again, and I didn’t want it to be the end.
As we waited for my train, we both looked at each with lumps in our throats and red eyes. She began to cry. The past 9 months had been a roller-coaster, and as Lord Ronan Keating once said about such, ‘You’ve just got to ride it’.
We said goodbye; I boarded my train and felt rebellious, putting my feet on the seats as I looked back fondly over our relationship
We never saw each other again. She later dated someone with a beard.
Have you tried Long Distance? Write down your experiences in the comment box below!
16% gave a weak, Nick Clegg kind of answer of ‘it depends on the person.’
10% say it is just a lustful infatuation usually caused by someone pretending to understand your problems.
Dairy-free Singles, Thematchmaker.com and Uniformed Dating unsurprisingly say it’s 100%. Sign up to find the one you love, who shares your lactose intolerance needs.
Any excuse to get this sexy fella on here
It would be a huge blow to the music industry if love isn’t real.
Westlife* may start having to sing about aquatics and tapestry
*I am aware Westlife stopped producing music years ago, but I am stuck in a late ’90s timewarp due to my lack of affiliation with scary new things such as lit, peng, dank, nightclub squadding, poo emoji’s and Adult Beiber
The following is my first dabble on the whole love thing. My previous attempts hadn’t worked out.
Rewind. It was 2011, Osama Bin Laden had been shot in the face, and David Guetta and his bezza, Flo Rida, were asking “Where them girls at?” (hope he managed to find them)
This was also the years of the riots, where uppity people were grouping up and destroying things, but there were confused as to why. There were little riots in my area, although I heard a bin was knocked over in a petty rage.
I was actually worried the 2012 Olympics were to be stripped away from us due to the carnage caused. I was worried one of the Olympic torches might have been kidnapped and used as a Molotov Cocktail by a disgruntled rioter, but luckily England had settled down by then and gone back to safe things, like drinking Tea and moaning.
That year I was working as a catering assistant at Bournemouth Beach. Here you see me, proudly standing in my hot uniform amongst a display of coloured Lions, which had appeared across the town for the summer.
The much loathed Imax Building still blocked the coastline, but due to a 50:50 sun/rain ratio, there was still interest in the beach. I would work hidden away in a blue box (no, not the Tardis), and would watch as everyone partied in the sunshine. I constructed our variant of 99 flakes, of which included such hideous ingredients as 0% Dairy, Vegetable Oil, emulsifier, sweetener, and more Vegetable Oil.
My little world
One time I offered a man to top up his ice-cream whippy with a flake for 30p.
He kindly responded by saying I should stick said flake where the sun doesn’t shine.
Another customer had no money, but desperately wanted a Twister lolly. He offered to exchange an 1/8th of weed for one. I decided not to go through with it. I could imagine the local newspaper now with illustrious damning headlines.
“Mr Whippy’s Drugs Bust.”
“Cornetto Cannabis Crackdown”
But anyway- back to the love you clicked here for.
One Summer’s day, a charming group of ladies approached me for ice-creams. One particularly blonde one, who slightly resembled Tanya from Britain’s most miserable soap, EastEnders, wanted an Orange Ribena Lolly.
We got talking and I joined them on the beach during my break. It was quite tough talking to 5 girls from up North that I’d never met, especially when conversation turned into contraceptions and coils. However, I appeared to go down well, and they found me again the next day at the ice-cream booth. Ribena I found myself drawn to due to her spirit and smile. She looked past my stubble and uninspired blue uniform, which possibly marked with ice refreshment ooze. As we were sat in a group, it was hard to talk to her alone. I really wanted to know why every lame pun I came out with she giggled at.
I hadn’t had much luck with women for a while; my last girlfriend had run away to Lapland to be an elf and never came home.
I’m not even joking.
“Look elves, there’s my goofy ex-bf back in England!
I digress. The girls were due to go back up North, and my shift finished at 3, and they were leaving around about the same time. I pleaded with my supervisor, Jules, who was busy breaking off icy residue off some Toffee Vanilla crunch, if I could go early.
I said there was a girl I liked, he let me go. The idea of romance cooled his heart.
I threw my apron off, almost forgetting there was a group of hungry Austrians waiting for a collection of hazelnut Magnums. I raced down the beach, bypassing several obese interpretations of the great British body. I almost pushed kids out the way, tripped over a few deckchairs and crushed a few sandcastles.
To be honest it wasn’t this dramatic. It was more of a hurried pace whilst walking with a sense of haste. I managed to find where them girls at.
Pretending I was merely walking there with little bother, I began to slow down and caught my breath when I saw them. I eventually managed to get talking to Ribena, and we had a walk across the sand. We shared a cute moment where I put ice-cream in her face, covering her in whippy. Our liaison should have ended there really. Luckily she had a soft spot for casual immaturity and vegetable oil.
The sun was shining, the weather was warm. It was nice to enjoy England’s annual one day of summer. We had a kiss on the shore, the icy coastal water cheekily lapping at her feet.
Her friends pulled funny faces at us, probably exclaiming a mixture of worry and excitement their mate was kissing a Cornetto salesperson.
As they left to go back up North, we exchanged details and more kisses. She seemed incredibly lovely, but I figured I was a bit of holiday romance.
A month passed, and in that time Ribena spoke about me coming up to visit as her parents were away. It would also consequently give me a break from another full-time week of ice popsicles.
I got the train to meet her at the nearest train station. It was only until I got there, that I felt a tremble down my spine, I had travelled a few hours away, I barely knew her… what if she was evil? Or tried to kidnap me… or worse, sell my organs for profit?
But my brain calmed down.
She was way too lovely for any of that. Though, talking of vital organs, she may later take my heart and –
Getting a little ahead of ourselves. Can we go back to talking about ice cream? No 😦
We had a really great few days. I felt a connection with her that I hadn’t felt before, she genuinely seemed to like me for me, as opposed to the accessory/tall escort/male company/broad-and-a-little-boney shoulder to cry on stigma that I feel.
Shame she lived about 150 odd miles away.
Bit of a stretch. I could just about handle that. Her smile was worth it.
She then decided to go to University 200 miles away.
After talking again, with us both confused on what this was and where we stood with each other, I got the feeling there was something more between us than an extended holiday romance. She asked me again to come up and visit her at her University residence – a student village – in Swansea
I met her at the station a month later, and it was like time stopped for a while. I’d not be so excited to see someone before. She made a lot of effort to look pristine and glowy, and it was good to feel wanted.
Typical Student Decor
I was terrified of going to her student halls. Drinking Games. Freshers debauchery. Smart Price Taglitelli. Chunder charts!
However, I had nothing to worry about. Apart from the a haunting peculiar smell in the stairwell, and fire doors that closed super-loudly, I mixed into the student experience well. Hell, my initiation into Ring of Fire ended up with me taking on the entire glass of shitmix as I think I got the last queen in the pack. Ribena later on had to drink a load of it, and I took one for the team for her on her behalf. There’s nothing like realizing you like someone when deciding to down their benevolent mixture of Imperial vodka, Red-flavoured Fanta Twist and Apple Sourz.
Luckily I didn’t earn a place on the chunder chart and my liver remained functional.
Our adventures included restaurants, shopping, cinema. She introduced me to Chiquitos and Danepak bacon, what’s not to like? She’d casually missed lectures just to lie next to me and we’d eventually stumble outside in the afternoon sun. We walked hand in hand with almost matching sunglasses. We even cooked together.*
(*well at the stage in my culinary pursuits I was more of a washer and dryer/sous chef)
We had conversations about food, travelling, emotional things, television.. it was so easy to talk to her. There were even tepid discussions about baby names.
(I’m stealing your suggestion of Atlanta, sorry not sorry.)
One time I almost wept into tears after seeing a video of my late grandmother that I’d not seen before, and she held me whilst I recuperated into a more manly composure.
Cynics leave. I’m aware people will destroy me with mockery at the following effeminate confessions. But a charming 1% of people will find the following quite heartfelt, even if they are slightly snorting with the giggles whilst drinking blog friendly pop.
We’re heading back to the original question. (LOVEEE)
I felt so happy with her. A complete cynic of anything remotely romantic, I found myself doing cringey things such as using pet names (it was babe in this case), sentimental cards pack full of sweetness and even once giving her chocolate hearts, slightly mushed after hiding them in my pocket. I never thought I was this type of person, but when you meet someone special, it just happens.
One night after a mixture of shopping, eating, and various coupley moments, we placed a candle on the table, it’s flame bouncing slightly in the small amount of Welsh wind that streamed through the window. The trees in the cool breeze of the campus outside were gently dancing. The hollering of distant games of ring of fire, beer pong and never have I ever were practically silent on the cool October eve.
I faced her on the bed and held her hands. I felt a little fuzzy. I tried to maintain some cool composure and said:
“I feel something.. I don’t know what it is, like I’ve not felt before.’
I felt slightly disconcerted of what she was going to respond with.
She looked at me, her eyes longingly looking at mine. She shyly replied:
“Rupert…I think I’m falling in love with you.”
Her words melted me, and I could see the conviction behind them.
At that moment, everything stopped except us.
And we kissed, and suddenly everything was amazing.
(1) For people who have grown up in a Disney-esque upbringing, and are probably wearing a Cinderella ball gown whilst reading this on the iPhone or Tablet, then –
(2) For jaded people who realise the harsh realities of long distance relationships etc, there will be a part 2.