FIRST FEATURE FILM: Montserrat Madness

COMING SOON – the dramatic epic that is sure to rock the world: a tale of two men, one mountain, and lots of stress fuelled largely by a lack of fitness.

This really tickled me, and I hope it does for you too – in a world where it seems horrendous things happen all too often, it is joy and happiness which should reign supreme:

You really should subscribe to his channel if you are big on the YouTubez, as my friend is not only a talented young whippersnapper but is also offering free cakes to the first few people who get in touch with him. DISCLAIMER: you have to fly all the way to South Korea to pick up said cakes, by then they may be gone, also I may have made this whole thing up – but still, subscribe anyway? Thanks pals.


I hope everyone is doing well, I have had a whole lot going on lately but haven’t forgotten about all you lovely people…I have Barcelona (Spain) to write about, Gdansk (Poland) next month, and a couple of weeks on the road in the USA in July…so let’s have everything crossed that I get my act in order and come back with some silliness after that – there’s bound to be a couple of tales. Till then, peace and love people – peace and love x

Banter with Buddha

New year’s resolutions are often mocked for how ridiculous they are….after all they are the result of arbitrarily linking the end of the year, and the start of a new one, to the thought that you will suddenly metamorphose into a bigger and better you with close to 0 effort. You’re not a Pokémon, and as a result such a thought process is doomed from the get-go. The sad reality is that real change comes from…real…change, and that’s that:

‘Everyday feel like the one before. Hunt the money, don’t hunt the hoe…if you do what you always done then you get what you always got, you dumb buffoons!’ – Gunplay (Gangsta’ Rapper,  and gardening equipment enthusiast)

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Well said Gunplay, and that’s exactly it – as hacky as it is to joke about, resolutions are going to remain as fickle dreamy ideas if we don’t institute real changes in our lives. Which is exactly why I made the leap last weekend of buying 4-ply toilet paper as opposed to 1-ply…I just thought; “John – you can do this…you deserve this. You owe this to yourself – pick it up.” And I went for it, I pushed through the pain barrier, and intend to keep it up for the rest of the year.

Not inspired by that? Okay…hard to please, jheez…what about this instead: last night I visited a Buddhist centre to attend a meditation class. You see to speak seriously-ish for a second I hate the idea of just plodding through life, with horse-blinkers on; simply living out your allotted days until you expire, never really experiencing things, or for that matter enjoying what you actually have in the first place. Groundhog Day, Groundhog Day, Grounhog Day – DEATH. Yeah, no thanks.

So I wanted to try new things…at first I thought of horse riding! I would be like Aragon stomping around the place – striding across the open plains of…Sunderland. I even Googled local stables in my area, and there was one close to my work which came well recommended. Ideal! I would finish work and then go play with-ah-shit…you have to be under 12 stone. Back to the drawing board you HUGE FAT GIMLI LOOKIN’ CRETIN!

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Ahem…so the next idea was meditation – and as there is no weight limit rule for sitting on a cushion on the floor, I figured it was ideal for me. Regular readers of my articles will probably protest this, but I am a little bit of a hypochondriac. No, no…come on. I get stressed out easily and then exaggerate about the severity of my situation, I can’t sit still, I tell people about my toilet paper habits. I mean objectively speaking I am strange sort of guy! So anything which could help de-stress me would likely mark a positive step in the right direction.

I went along with my sister, my friend, and his girlfriend – who at the last second decided it wasn’t for her. She didn’t want to talk to people, didn’t want to do the meet and greet, didn’t want to have to introdu – “WAIT…WHAT?!”  I hadn’t even thought there would be any sort of social element – I don’t want to be in there doing trust exercises with my genitals alongside total strangers (or whatever the hell they get up to in there). She was going to go off to a cafe instead, de-stress with a book and a good cup of coffee. What the hell was I doing? Why wasn’t I doing that? I don’t even like the smell of incense this incen-

I went anyway. You know I used to think that sitting was the best thing in the world, aside from maybe lying down…but let me say this, it was one of the most uncomfortable sitting sessions I may have ever experienced. It actually makes me wonder whether meditation classes are just a bunch of people packed into a room pretending they don’t have pins and needles the whole time: “Think of a looooved onee-send your love to them” YOWWW MY BIG TOE IS RINGING – “feel the energy of the universe pulse through your body” – ARGH IT’S TWITCHING AND TWITCHING – “let your body float into a state of pure posiiitivityyy ” – RIGHT THAT’S IT – LOST ALL FEELING – WILL NEVER WALK AGAIN.

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I have been back a couple of times though, actually I think I am going again tonight – so somehow the feeling that I would never ever get to walk again wasn’t enough to put me off. There must be, after all, some good to it, ey? So what if whenever I close my eyes and try to think of waterfalls instead it’s just flashes of painful childhood memories, peppered with looming doubts about the future – that’s great, that’s normal, that’s…I like that, it’s great…it’s…

…off to cry now (whilst standing up), tah tah! 

Love you all, old and new -and I truly hope you have an absolutely magic 201, are any of you try anything different this year? Going to try and get more articles out for you whenever possible. Shout out to Meagan for giving me a nudge!

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Punching Strangers

There’s something about seeing people bash their fellow human being’s faces in which really gets us all going…

I don’t know what it is exactly – perhaps it is rooted in our more animalistic side which we ordinarily stifle for the sake of being more civilised and not getting weird looks as we bulldoze through public places…or maybe we are just disgusting and should be euthanised for our cruel ways for the greater good…hmm, that’s entirely possible actually…

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But whatever it is, and whether you choose to believe it or not, it is there. And things like boxing, UFC, and horrendous fail videos are blatant evidence of this.

Now as you probably all know already, or if you don’t you can look at photographs and work it out by reading between the lines – I am an exceptionally skilled fighter. Not just a brawler but an absolute powerhouse unit, kind of like a really big refrigerator except there’s no ice dispenser in there, just huge uncompromising punches to stranger’s faces…well no, more like a rhino. If rhinos could stand up and didn’t have such laughable fists – because my fists are way more like a…like a ball. Big basketballs of violence that slam dunk your head until you cry and wish you never pushed in front of me whilst queuing for ice cream.

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So it makes complete sense that I went to watch UFC in Seoul the other weekend…and isn’t an odd out of place incident in the slightest. Thank you very much; just wanted to clear that one up before we proceed…

Yeah so someone got me tickets, and I went along with a few friends to see what all of the fuss is about – one of which who asked “so you’re a big fan then?” Well no, I thought, but I think of myself as a aficionado of the classical arts and I respect the culture of the Ancient Greeks with their love of the theatre, and the Ancient Romans for their imposing colosseums as bastions for gladiatorial showdowns…and…FINE – I’m lying, I haven’t the foggiest idea about it aside from that they try to hurt each other.

However I did have one question: “will there be lions and swords?” No?! Dammit…then we’re going to have to get a lot of beer in to make this half-way tolerable…

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And that we did. Despite a rule that meant the beer you bought at the stall you couldn’t bring into the actual viewing platform…”so you just want me to buy seven and drink as fast as I can before heading back in? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” No qualms there…and anyway, it certainly added a different sort of energy to the experience. Running in and out between rounds, and then moments later finding yourself in the humongous stench of the bathrooms alongside a million other men attempting the same impossible task; to both pee quickly despite the pressure, whilst also holding your Budweiser high enough that a pee splash beer cocktail wouldn’t occur. A version of heaven some may say??

Anyway the fights themselves were entertaining, certainly took me back to the school days where much of the day seemed to revolve around punching and kicking humans for questionable reasons…or at the very least planning to. But this time it wasn’t on the schoolyard, in a park, or at the back lane of a corner shop at 3:15…it was organised and with thousands of fans cheering it on. Oh how times of changed, I thought to myself; perhaps this is what being a grown up is all about…

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After the 100th kick to the 100th head I tired of the spectacle somewhat…well no, that’s not entirely true – I was probably just finding it hard to keep my eyes glued in one place. The friend who appeared to be somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert was sleeping with his left hand glued to his chin (that last drink was a bad idea I suppose!) So I took myself off on a little walk, as is often the custom when one is severely off their rocker – and bought even more beer for reasons I can’t be sure of.

I then proceeded to forget the rule (or just flouted it altogether) by attempting to brazenly thrust myself through the security so I could effectively multi-task in my seat…by watching and drinking at the same time; and who know? Possibly I could do some peeing too if I was brave/intoxicated enough.

Of course I was stopped – but the hand wasn’t one of a huge imposing no-nonsense type that would be better placed as a tough cronie of a supervillain mastermind…it was instead a young Korean lady, a student I imagine. I tried to be polite in my protests and naturally pretended like this wasn’t the 300th time I had been through: “OH…OH REALLY? EYEDIDNEVENNOO?!”, whilst making gestures that signalled I was totally unaware of the rules and it was all fresh new very interesting info she was giving me…“AHHH SOH-NO? AHHH RIGHT, YES”I probably looked ridiculous, but in my head I was the master of disguise and deceit.

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I then asked her how I would finish these four beers? A valid question! What should I do with them? Throw them away? Return them? Attempt to give them to the winner of the next UFC bout whilst saying “there you go, this is your golden reward!” Well no, of course not – that would be absolute lunacy.

So clearly there was only one thing for it…and after a very minimal amount of suggestion we chugged two each, high fived, and then continued about our business never to meet again. It was a beautiful moment.

The rest of the night is a blur – but I can say this, I enjoy watching punching a lot more than I do getting punched. That I can say with concrete confidence. 

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Silly Sausage

South Korea – Jeju Island ~ 2013

I am pale. Very, very pale. Like Nosferatu pale. Really I shouldn’t ever see sunlight – that would probably work out best for me. But the heart wants what it wants unfortunately, which is to go outside and not live in a cave all of my life. So factor 5000 it is. Except they don’t make that (if they do then please send me a private message, PLEASE), so more often than not I am burned to a red crisp every single time there is even a peak of sun.

Let me take you back to last year, on a long weekend trip to Jeju Island…

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Night in an Igloo

I often notice that spending a night in an igloo is on quite a few people’s bucket lists…and I think it’s clear why this may be; after all it’s out of the ordinary, a one off experience, and at the very least there’s potential for fun (if not frostbite and/or hypothermia.) 

As children we see drawings, cartoons, and photographs of these strange and snowy lands…and the igloo is a constant if not integral feature of this setup – it fills young and old minds alike with wonder as to whether the inside is warm and toasty…despite being made completely of chunky slabs of ice.  I mean surely it is right, or how would people survive the bitter cold?!

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Well while I was in Finland I was lucky enough to get to spend a night in one…it was a now or never situation as soon the slightly hotter March temperatures would melt them to the ground. So of course it was a yes without much hesitation. I  had some slight reservations mind you, so I piled on all of the clothes I had just in case (glad I did), from socks, to long-johns…hats, scarves, gloves…jackets, body warmers – the lot! I ended up looking like a cross between the Michelin man and a greasy German sausage; the only skin showing being my pink chubby face  and my constantly snivelling wet dog-like nose…

I went in with a friend I worked with, and my older sister: and we began to note how the outside looked rather bizarre, like a goblin barbarian camp – not sure where that idea came from, but it just looked otherworldly, you know? A long way from the winding uniform streets of my hometown,  the clanging of old clock towers, and the hustle and bustle of the bus schedules. Here there were strange ice huts, looking completely different to the post-card type of igloos my imagination had always held on to…instead they were draped in the skins of dead animals, and held together with strange sharpened wood…I could have sworn I had witnessed something similar in one of The Lord of the Rings movies – but anyway, I digress…

I was first into the igloo and threw myself straight into the center – meaning I was going to be a lovely cosy hamburger pattie with two agitated (and rather jealous) human bread-buns on either side…I had to ignore that and think of the bigger picture though: there was now a much lower chance of me freezing to death that night – try not to judge please, sometimes in the arctic wilderness you have to be savage like that:

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The inside was just as bizarre as the outside and almost as cold; so I got straight into a sleeping bag still fully clothed like Joey on that episode of Friends – and then from my little cocoon surveyed the whole area…as my sister kicked me in the side and made every excuse under the sun as to why she should get to be in the middle as opposed to me. No sale. 

The place was adorned with even more animal skins, and there were a number of candles scattered sporadically around the outer ring – probably serving as both ways to warm as well as to add a little more quaint beauty to the otherwise sinister looking unlicensed fur store…I mean sure they were relatively comfy, but it made me feel slightly sadistic to be lying on Rudolph and all of his other now dead pals…

Anyway, I tried to forget about how some of Christmas had died just to keep my bum comfortable – and actually started to warm up a little…was still shivering though – so we passed around a bottle of the Finish spirit Minttu, hoping slurps of it’s 40% alcohol charm may work wonders and ease some the discomfort. It sort of did…we then fell asleep sometime after that whilst talking about the stars, the animal furs, and of course – the horrendous cold which was mostly all we could think about:

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I woke up the next morning warm and toasty though! Well all apart from that small opening I had for my face…which was now covered in frost on my eyelashes, and bogey icicles from my nose – but hey, at least the rest of me was okay – who needs a face anyway?  Not me!

But there was one monumental problem…I had to pee…desperately. And that would mean both going outside and leaving my lovely cosy cocoon, as well as potentially losing out on my commanding human hamburger position – this could not happen, no way…there was just too much on the line, the pee would have to wait. So I thought of other things…like…snow, ice, water…and…urgh…forget it…

As soon as I stepped out the -20°C temperatures hit me like a steam train and I knew that there was no getting back to my previous state – the other two were up now anyway, complaining about me leaving the door open (ooops) and the fact that they had to go to work in ten minutes…whereas I had managed to arrange a late start: “you sneaky bastard! How did you get that?! Totally not fair!” – this meant I could get my stuff together, brush off all of the animal hair (which was no small task!) and head back to the “Santa House”
as it was known, and get some solid sleep in a real bed…within, you know: four solid non-ice walls.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life. Like, not dying of hypothermia. Know what I mean? Still a fun experience and one I would recommend to anyone! But…just make sure you pack a bottle or two of that Minttu, it really does work wonders.

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Tokyo Tantrums

Japan ~ Tokyo – 2015

Tokyo has a big city sort of reputation to it, an air of grandeur accompanied with a sense of mystery somewhere within the non-stop luminous glare of the lights and the 24/7 rush…

So many films have painted a picture that has made an impression on me, and because of this it was high on the list of places I wanted to see…so when I realised I had a long weekend coming up I didn’t hesitate and booked it up straight away! Just a couple of hours to get from my home in Korea to the unknown world beyond – armed with nothing but a friend’s recommendations (which proved invaluable) and a feeling I was soon to be in my very own Lost in Translation remake…

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Sidenote: when travelling you really do need to think long and hard about who you will actually travel with. Well maybe not too thorough – nothing too ridiculous, but at the very least you need to see a clean bill of health (both physical and mental), a criminal background check, and dental records. Also check their voice and typical conversation topics as otherwise you may be locked in with the most boring groaner on the planet – which is never going to be fun. With this particular adventure I was meaning to go alone originally, and then at the last minute a lady friend of mine tagged along…which brought some erm, shall we say – complications? 

Anyway I mean this sincerely when I say that Tokyo is a marvel. So much to see and do, a far cry from the more reserved and traditional parts of Japan I had visited earlier in the year.  But oddly I found it manages to retain a fantastic balance between the two often conflicting sides; you see one second I’d be staring up at a 60 foot tall science fiction juggernaut in the form of the powerful Gundam, the next I was wearing a traditional yukata and relaxing in an onsen…then I’d blink and be back to the mad rush of the Shibuya scramble crossing! I was completely in my element, roving around searching for the weird and wonderful, straining my neck to try and see as much as I possibly could…it was everything I had dreamed about for so long, and so much more…

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But yeah: the ghost at the feast…the wasp at the picnic…the drunk and slightly creepy uncle at the family reunion. Hmm, that last one was a bit weird, but you get my point – this is the part of the story where I say what didn’t go so smoothly, and most of it had to do with my travel companion: hence my warning earlier. You see I try my utmost to remain as friendly and light hearted as possible during trips, as from experience I understand that it can be a pretty stressful period if you let the small things seep in and truly affect you…if you do that suddenly the foul smell of a certain street, the incessant honking of horns on the road, or perhaps even your friend’s breathing can have you suddenly enraged beyond all comprehension: like smashing an axe into a locked door screaming “heeeeere’s Johnny!”  sort of level rage. So it’s best to take a deep breath instead, and just let most hiccups roll off your back…

However, my lady friend didn’t share this ethos…which meant that any small thing became the reason for a monumental day-ruining mood. Juxtapose that dark rain cloud along with my attempted cheery sense of humour and you had quite a pairing; something like if Voldemort was to meet one of the Teletubbies. Well actually that’s unfair (to he who must not be named): it would only be like that if Voldemort had the emotional range to both grimace and groan about public transport, and literally burst into tears about the levels of salt in Japanese food…as it stands I don’t think he is quite on her level yet.

I can understand the frustration though, Tokyo is huge and it’s far too easy to become dazed and confused by the sprawling subway system: which I honestly think was designed by someone throwing spaghetti at the wall, and saying: “that’ll do just fine.” We took many wrong turns during our days there, and the hours were long and well travelled…but I don’t see how it helps remaining silent or dragging your feet along as if you are a pathetically non-threatening zombie, or almost defunct robot:

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There is an answer to such problems though, and one which I will gladly share with all of you…and that is; beer. Yes, you heard it here first! The golden elixir is the perfect remedy to all sorts of ailments, including the frustration you may feel when a friend (or something more) is becoming more than you can bear. Thankfully there was a so-called “English pub” just off a side street near to the Shibuya crossing…where for three times the normal price I could enjoy beer, ales, and all that good stuff as if I was back amongst the smoke and laughing guffaws of my homeland…“Wait, it’s how much?! Jesus tap-dancing Christ!? It’s not worth that!”

But yeah, that’s how things go! Ups and downs, smiles and frowns…you have to take the good with the bad, and try to carve out memories that will last: and despite all the issues we were still able to do that…pretty much.

However I must now look for an AA meeting in South Korea: so yeah, wish me luck. 

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Wacky Races

It seems that in Nepal, like a lot of the developing world, road safety takes somewhat of a backseat. And by taking a backseat I mean it is kicked out all together and is basically nowhere to be seen…like honestly, you permanently feel like you are in a episode of Wacky Races…except in this case if you smash into a wall and burst into flames you are a lot less likely to be ready to shoot the next scene, real life is restrictive like that! What a bummer!

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Actually come to think of it, it was the exact same in China when I went on a trip to see the Three Gorges Dam…you wanted to be excited for your destination, after all you’d invested so much time scrolling through Wikipedia, but were more focused on saying your hail marys and promising yourself that if you make it through you will become a missionary and set up your own orphanage…

Continue reading “Wacky Races”