Unwanted Room Mate

It’s a well recorded, and commonly recited sentiment – but you truly never know what sort of day a stranger on the street is having…of course our imagination fills in the huge gaping blanks, but that doesn’t mean we should trust these assessments – more often than not they are way off…

Like you may look at a berserk man storming down the street, and immediately come to the conclusion that he is a thug looking for old lady’s purses to steal, or children’s sandcastles to kick over. But who knows? He could very well be that, but it is also within the realms of possibility that he is just a regular Joe…and that he is simply having the worst day of his life. Perhaps his dog may have to be put down, perhaps there is a close relative who is terminally ill, or perhaps his girlfriend made him binge watch every single episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians the night before. We can never know for sure…

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Or you may be pushed out of the way by a severe looking lady – who resembles Miss Trunchbull in every way (except sadly there’s no chocolate cake)…and yes, your automatic thought will be that she is rude and you ought to say something passive aggressive to her. But what if she too is having an awful day, or a series of awful days? She could be about to be evicted, or she may be on the verge of losing her job…or maybe she is being bullied by some weird snooty kid with magical powers. Again, you just never know..

So it’s nice, to be nice – as my Momma used to say. Just in case any of these things are true…or just in case this one-dimensional cartoonesque image we have of odd looking strangers is not exactly on the money! To throw myself in as an example – if you were to see me out in public last week you’d instinctively have thought something along the lines of “who is that attractive, young whipper-snapper?!” no…sorry, getting ahead of myself. You’d actually have wondered: “who is that strange man, and why is he so red and sweaty?!” Well friends, what you couldn’t have known is that I was enduring a horrendous trial that week…which will go down in history as “The Battle of the Grasshopper Room-Mate.”

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You see on one unsuspecting Monday I was met with a grasshopper in my bathroom – he was perched on the windowsill and had gotten in through the small crack I allow for ventilation. I wrongly assumed it would just be a brief visit – that perhaps he would just be someone to chat with while I have my pee, and then he’d be on his way. However the next time I was in there he was all laid out on the floor, making himself comfortable….time, and time again he was just sat there, changing positions every now and again. Not saying a great deal, but making his presence felt…making toilet time a little bit more uncomfortable than usual – with those buggy staring accusing eyes of his.“I’M JUST TRYING TO WIPE SIR, LEAVE ME ALONE!”

So now you’re probably thinking, “well just get rid of the fella, evict him! Call the police even!” which is all well and good, except I am not a proper man who can do the whole cup and piece of paper trick – also I teach kindergarten and I’m trying to make a concerted effort not to nurture future serial killers so I impose a ‘let’s not kill living things’ policy…I try to practice what I preach, rather than being a hypocrite so here I am…

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AND YES I EAT BURGERS, I KNOW, I KNOW – I JUST DON”T WANT TO DO THE EXECUTIONS MYSELF, OKAY!

Anyway, he was there. For days. So eventually I left my bathroom door wide open hoping he would just hop on out at some point so I could poop in peace… that perhaps he’d go under the bed – or any place else where he couldn’t be seen, or heard. We could cohabit. We could make this situation work, somehow…perhaps we’d have a day where we’d watch movies together and eat junk food – but otherwise we’d keep ourselves to ourselves for the sake of our own respective sanities. 

I’ll keep you posted on that. But this ongoing drama has undoubtedly taken a toll on me; so who knows what blustered and worrisome appearance I had on my stupid stressed out face on those days I was battling with my unwanted room mate…I was probably a bit more short with people, a little less good humoured. But I was going through something…and so are other people, probably.

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So let’s remember that, or at least try to – yeah?

Oh, and another thing before I go – does anyone have a spare room going? I’m asking for a friend…he’s clean and quiet – I’ll pay his first month’s rent. Shoot me an email if you do, would be greatly appreciated…

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Why am I Dying? (냉방병)

I’ve been suffering a little bit recently…and by suffering I mean clinging on for dear life – in fact I even thought about writing out my will, but then realised I don’t own anything of worth so just went back to crying alone instead. 

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Oh, but for the record my brothers can share my socks out on a first come first served basis.

Now I know this sounds a little over the top, and just a smidgen dramatic but I promise you it is (mostly) the truth, and only the truth. You see the thing is these past few days I have felt like the devil himself has clawed himself into my face, rummaged around in my skull, and then worked his way down my entire body before exiting painfully out of my rear end in a fiery burst. He has plagued me with a constantly shivering exterior that would make The Cowardly Lion look broad-shouldered in comparison; he has made sleep a struggling impossibility, and has made food pointless…as whatever happens it will spatter out in some mad acid rain dance moments later. Which actually sounds a lot more entertaining than the reality, might I add.

But what the hell is going on? Is this some sort of old testament punishment or something? I just had to know…or more to the point I had to discover a cure for my ailment! Any more friction down there and I felt I would spontaneously combust – which on second thought would at least provide some respite from the chills…hmm swings and roundabouts…

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I’m as confused and uncomfortable as this image is.

Anyway, WebMD scares me, so I decided to stay away from it this time around…for fear I would misdiagnose myself with trench foot, cholera, pregnancy, or something else completely off base. Instead I just so happened to be moaning to a Korean friend who knew exactly what it was almost instantly! Turns out it’s something known as 냉방병 (naeng-bang-byong) – which put simply is your body freaking out due to going from nice cool air-conditioned rooms to the sweltering humid hell that is the outdoors of the Asian summer…which leads to migraines, high fever, digestive problems, and more…oh joy! Woopee!

So what happens is your body gets sick of this theatrical changing of the temperature dials and tries to keep your body at a regular stable heat…in essence it’s the movie I-Robot playing out inside your body; the struggle between human and the machines, a turbulent and wild fight except there is no Will Smith to save the day. Just you sitting on the pot, shitting yourself to death – or waddling around attempting daily activities wishing you were on said pot. A little less Hollywood-esque some may say, and they’d probably be right.

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Yeah, well I’m sick of shitting by myself too Will!

Well just get some bed-rest, watch a few movies, and paint your toenails for a couple days John!” I hear you scream. Hmm yeah, sure – I’d love to, but I simply can’t because I’m in Korea and for some reason that remains unknown to me time off work is a huge no-no – which means no rest and no medicine for the not even that wicked as I finish work after the health centres close. So instead I have to drag myself in, and do this really quite creepy weird whisper-shout at the children I teach:

please…please…shhh…just please. I have naeng-bang-byong…please. Just shut the f-pleaz.” 

Unsurprisingly they rarely listen, probably can’t even hear me – but I just hope to make it to the weekend so I can go into full on Snorlax mode and rest myself back to good health. Wish me luck, and a less sore bottom dear friends! It’s been a rough ride so far…

p.s. I can’t drink beer and cheesy snacks at this present time. So please do this on my behalf, it would really comfort me to know at least someone else is having a glorious amount of fun as I…well you know what I’m doing by now. 

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Saunas, and Snowballs

I’m not such a confident guy, which may shock you to hear. Or perhaps not if you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos, considered how I may come off around normal people – and then put two and two together. If that means you, then well done – you cracked the DaJohnvi Code! Congratulations!

Apologies but there’s no formal prize as such – my budget is tight – but feel free to create your own certificate on Microsoft Paint, and then put it up on your fridge for everyone to see. I recommend using a nice font so people know it’s real and not just some bogus accolade made up on some rambling article in the darkest depths of the internet. They’re the worst, and I doubt anyone will want to see it in a job interview…I mean you never know…but in this case – yeah actually, we know.

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What am I even talking about?! Oh yeah…so confidence, yeah – it’s a little low but I’m getting better. However I must say I’m certainly nowhere near the narcissistic extrovert level I feel is necessary to  prosper in the world these days. I’m definitely not the type to jump out of a plane (unless it’s on fire and there’s a giant marshmallow at the bottom), or tease sharks with promises of cocktail sausages by running through their homes on a spontaneous skinny dipping spree, or…well, come to think of it I wouldn’t even mention it if the waiter gave me the wrong order at a restaurant. I’d just sit there and knuckle down like a prison lifer…shoveling the wretched artichoke and beetroot paella down my throat, pretending everything is fine and that the cheese smothered chicken with extra bacon didn’t sound good at all.

I’d probably even leave a tip and a nice review on their website.

So when I was in Finland a couple of years ago, it was in essence my own personal nightmare to hear of their tradition regarding saunas – which is basically to be completely nude, (or as I like to call it “making close-friends with gravity”) and then to flee out into the arctic expanse and throw your reddened steamy body into a pile of snow. You then run back to the sauna, and repeat, repeat, repeat until you either get bored or die of frostbite.

Some may call this stupidity, the actions of a madman, that only a raving lunatic would act in such a way…and yes I would be prone to agree. But I also think it takes a special brand of confidence to delve into such an act willy-nilly; and I also think it is rather self-evident that you need true metaphorical balls to put your actual balls in such obvious danger. And I’m afraid to note I don’t have those – the metaphorical ones I mean.

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“But it’s the culture…you should at least try it once, just to be polite!” Or at least that’s what everyone suddenly turns and says to you when you attempt to quietly back out of such a thing. Which leaves you with only two options sadly; to take part in the hideous event after all, or to strangle those who are kicking up such a fuss and hope no one will ever find you in your igloo safe-house bunker.

So EVENTUALLY I’m in the sauna, OBVIOUSLY. Looking at my feet as it’s the least threatening portion of nudity on display; breathing in and out – whilst wondering if its okay to be filling my lungs with the greasy sweat vapor of such a large group of strangers. I mean won’t it make my breath smell like an armpit? And another person’s armpit at that…surely that can’t be good…right? And wait, will I have to use deodorant as mouthwash from now on?! So many vital questions, and yet no one to ask…

But my important thoughts are interrupted when a rather dangly man stands up and gestures to me as if to say “it’s time”. He’s middle aged…forty something, rather short and with an admirable beer belly – I wouldn’t have known it by looking at him, but the man was a pro at the whole procedure. You see, the stairs were freezing in comparison to the dense heat of the sauna, but he wasted absolutely no time complaining and zipped up with lightning speed…meanwhile I followed after him, attempting to forget the flashes of bum hole hair I had just witnessed against my will.

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He jammed open the heavy door to the icy tundra…as a shiver ran all through my body – it wasn’t exactly surprising to experience how uncomfortable it was to be fully naked in the arctic circle, where it is regularly -50ish…but it did make me wonder even more why this cultural practice was even a thing at all. “5, 4…” he began without warning, whilst readying himself for his jump and encouraging me to do the same, “…3, 2…” I could see the eagerness in his eyes, but I could also feel the unwillingness of any part of myself to go through such extreme pain…“1, GOAAAAHHH!” 

He leaped, I didn’t. Instead I stood there glued to the spot, staring down at this balding starfish, and his wide gaping butt crack. His head turned to look for me, holding an expression tarnished by my betrayal. I put this to the back of my mind, and darted back down the stairs…slipping in my hurry and slamming my nude body rather clumsily across solid unforgiving concrete. Which yeah, served me right I suppose. 

And although I ended up with a bruised left buttock, and that fella didn’t ever really talk to me properly again after my Judas moment…as far as I know I can still have children at some point which I feel would have been under a lot of scrutiny had I went ahead with Operation Ice Testes-test. So you know what? I feel pretty confident I made the right decision, and that’s good enough for me.

But for what it’s worth, sorry Csaba! I’ll do it next time…promise!

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The Mission from God.

I have been dwelling on my early teenage years recently – it’s funny because at that point in your life, it could be argued there is not too much greater thought going on! It’s very “I want this!’ and “I hate this!”, possibly with a sprinkle of “this is shit!” But something is happening, you are blossoming into whatever you will be in later life…it’s not clear then, but it is obvious when you look back and connect the dots…I look back and I see, a shy spotty kid, with goofy teeth and braces…whose biggest concern was whether some moron at school would rhyme my surname Taggart, with faggot.

The usual teenage insecurity and self-consciousness I had then, was buried deep down never to be looked at – never to be examined for fear someone might think I was weak. It is only now that I have started being able to channel that into my writing to create humour. It’s about fucking time! Now I am thankful for every situation, good or bad – because there is always a story, always something positive that can be drawn, even in the darkest of times. And that’s a lovely thing.

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Continue reading “The Mission from God.”

Adult Movies and Angry Stares

I think as an eternally awkward and embarrassed individual certain scenarios are made doubly worse and triply…trebly…erm – errrr…three times as dramatic as they should be. Phew, that was an ordeal in itself! 

But I have somewhat come to terms with this fact and now consider myself to be a somewhat fully functioning nervous wreck, as opposed to a few years ago where I was a full time rocking chair enthusiast…

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That doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly a cool cucumber, reminiscent of Jude Law in his prime (before his hair receded and he started looking like a half peeled potato). You see, I don’t particularly have a strut, and my smile to strangers is still weirdly forced – but I no longer poo my pants at the prospect of talking to someone working in a supermarket. Which is sort of like a victory…in my own strange way…well, it saves money on new clothes anyways – which is practically the same thing.

But on a recent flight I found myself resorting to old habits…as the nerve-racked Mr. Hyde-side of my being crept uneasily back into my life, stammering and sweating with every embarrassed step. You see I was on a long-haul flight just a couple of days ago, and was the reddened meat of a Chinese grandmother sandwich…we had nodded, and smiled to each other – and had even exchanged some muddled pleasantries before growing suitably bored and reaching for our respective sets of headphones. (The internationally known sign for “don’t talk to me please.”)

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I began to look through the selection of films, hoping to catch sight of a new-ish one I’d missed the first time around. There were a few that stood out; a serious looking one with James Franco and Jonah Hill, a thriller with Jake Gyllenhaal, and…the newest Spongebob Squarepants movie – all promised to offer some entertainment, and an opportunity to put a dent in the horrendous thirteen hour flight time. I then decided that I would keep these three in reserve, and would only start to watch them when life suddenly didn’t feel like living…until then I would watch some funnily bad films, whilst I still have the energy to put up with them. Strange logic, but made sense at the time. 

So on went a low budget movie picture about a serial killer…can’t recall the name but after ten minutes some poor lady was being strung up in ropes as she screamed and begged for mercy – it was brutal. Unfortunately this opinion hadn’t escaped the grandma buns on either side…who were now staring at me as if I was the crazy killer myself…I mean, the scene had me uncomfortable, but the looks had made it unbearable: as if they were saying “ahhh, so this is the sick shit you’re into then, huh? I wish I had never smiled and said hello now…I retract them both from our shared history books.” 

Kanye Judging GIF

Anyway, the humiliation and embarrassment took over and so off it went – it was a terrible movie in the first place so nothing lost, right? Instead I searched for something else to fill the silence and put on a rather unsuspecting drama of some sort…which opened with a gratuitous sex scene – naturally. But surprise-surprise they weren’t fond of that either, and both began to swivel their heads, and tut louder than I had ever heard anyone tut. “Hmmm-mmm, oh” they began to murmur…but any fool could have worked out what they were really trying to say…

“So this is the sick shit you’re into, is it? That’s the check list for any movie you watch; violence, gore, and overly dramatic and cringeworthy sex scenes? Can’t you just watch fucking Toy Story like a normal human?! You make me sick – and after all we’ve been through as well…urgh.”

So I zapped off that as well; I had got the message loud and clear. There was something nice about staring at the blank black screen after the whole palava – there was to be no judgement, which felt good. I then pulled out the book I’m currently reading (W.H. Davies’: ‘The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp) and flicked through its pages until the grandma bread on either side of me slipped away into unconsciousness…about three minutes later thankfully. 

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I was then free to watch whatever I wanted. So on went the classic: ‘Killer Penis Hostage Bastard’. It was a fun watch, I’d recommend it to anyone! Apart from my new grandmother friends of course. But shhhhh, they don’t need to know about that!

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Stop Thief!

I danced a lot on Saturday night…like A LOT, A LOT! It had been quite some time since I had “went out” in Korea, so I guess that I had just stored all of this boogie energy up, and was releasing it all over the sticky dancefloors of Seoul!

One army-looking guy commented that he “likes the way I move” several times, which sounds creepy in retrospect – but I think it was just an appreciation of all the boogie work I was putting in, and also perhaps he felt sorry for me because my friends were at the bar, and didn’t join me until they had reached an optimum alcohol induced state. But I didn’t really care, I was in the zone…

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I really wasn’t aware that I’m a Chris Brown fan (honest!) – but apparently my body is. 

Anyway, the fact that I was so focused on busting moves meant that my mind wasn’t on other things – which is a positive thing, I was just having a good time, and totally living in the joy of the moment. But thankfully I wasn’t so oblivious as to not note every single thing…

You see in the next bar I was doing much of the same, dancing, and just having fun – probably thinking that I look absolutely fantastic, but in reality probably looking more like an oxygen starved flapping fish. But hey, no matter. And I was also chattering away, as I imagine I do after a few lemonades…

…but that’s when I vaguely noticed a tall-ish Korean man standing by the table…in a long coat, and with a highly suspicious look plastered all over his face. I attempted to ignore him, but for some reason it struck me as necessary to keep one eye on him…I turned out to be right…

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You see my one spying eyeball caught sight of his outstretched arm…reaching right for my dance-partners purse on the nearby table…he pulled on it once – bringing it closer…I watched in disbelief…he pulled on it again, so close to his pocket now…I was still doubting what was happening, or at least what was about to! 

YOINK! And the purse was in his pocket! And he was heading for the door! GONE, HE’S GONE! I rubbed my eyes, and ran out after him – shaking off my friend who was trying to pull me back, probably thinking I was all danced out, still oblivious to the fact that her keys, cards, and cash were about to turn up missing!

I pushed over a few people in the mad adrenaline fueled burst, but I had no time to pay attention to that, he was getting away, HE WAS GETTING AWAY! 

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Well he was – but he didn’t get far! It was just outside on the street where I grabbed him – and snatched the purse back out of his hand. “Huh? Whaa?” He began, as I shook my head like a disapproving Grandmother! I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do other than that…it wasn’t exactly a combat scenario, and suddenly he was so nervous all of a sudden – a far cry from the slick chameleon he was attempting to be inside the bar!

I turned back, and returned to the table. 

“Where did you go?” started my friend, until I cut her off – and put the purse into her hands. I was puffing, and panting, which made me recognise that I’m certainly too unfit to be any kind of hero…it’s simply not for me. I’ll just stick to dancing, there’s a lot less danger in that!

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ASS IN FACE (A Gym Story)

I’m not much of a talker at the gym…a nod and smile usually suffices most interactions – as the large majority of people just want to be in and out as soon as possible so the entire ordeal doesn’t drag any longer than necessary…

So like many others I put in my earphones and just silently do my time as if counting down a horrendous prison stretch…each set of exercises representing another etched line on the cell’s walls that leads up to freedom and release to the outside world – where sweaty groins and burning muscle pains are a lot less frequent. Unless you’re a pole dancer I suppose…

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Anyway that doesn’t stop the chatty Kathys out there unfortunately, or the other talkative people who are not called Kathy for that matter. No Sir! There are still a few bizarre individuals who feel the best time to enter into conversation with strangers is when they are one squat away from being sick all over the dumbbell rack, or one strained leg press from caking their underpants…let me tell you this right now: these people are stupid – they should let people die alone, not interrupt their struggle and offer unwanted opinions on the weather and current events!

It makes me deeply saddened to report that despite being in South Korea I am not immune to these types. Just yesterday one entered my life, and just like herpes once you have a new buddy (even one that is against your will) there is no getting rid and you will have to face it every day. If you are in this situation you have my sympathy – but there is nothing that you, a doctor, or a personal trainer can do about it…you simply have to learn to coexist…errr yeah, I think I lost my train of thought a little…

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Also may I add you may hear that a flamethrower will help alleviate this problem – I am not legally at liberty to comment. But…yeah, DO IT. 

Anyway so back to the story – I was sat at a bench, except not a nice bench like a park bench, on which I can do nothing but listen to the birds sing in the trees, and smile at babies who just stare back dumbfounded…no you see this bench is different. On this bench I have to lift up heavy things, without moving them anywhere, and then put them down again…and then repeat. As if I am really indecisive like “hmmm where shall I put this, perhaps over here, perhaps over…err…nah just put it down and think again.” REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT! So is the life of the gym goer, and so was my situation in that moment.

So anyway while I was sat there an older but still rather fit looking (as in healthy, settle down you!) lady got right in front of me- despite there being quite literally all of the rest of the gym to stand. She then began some weird very bum orientated moves that I don’t know the name of, there was a lot of gyration going on…too much. They were like squats I suppose but more butt, and each movement was so close to me that I got a bit of a breeze with every rep.,.it made me uncomfortable…very, very uncomfortable…each bum jerk was the equivalent to a sloppy Aunt kiss when you’re 12 years old.

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Now I’m a nervous fella at the best of the times but I felt like I knew how to deal with this one…so I deployed the good old half a clock method; I simply looked down at my phone, looked left at the Korean drama beaming on a small TV screen, then back to the mirror (looking only at myself…not even a glimpse to the right, oh no!) – and then repeat! You see I didn’t want anyone wagging a finger and shrieking “DID YOU JUST LOOK AT THE BUTT I AM SHOVING IN YOUR FACE?! HOW BLAAADY DARE YOU?! YOU FIEND YOU!” 

Nahhhh, it was far too early for that sort of exchange – so I stuck to my guns. Even when the butt turned around, I stuck to the strategy…even when she stared right at me from two feet away, I tried…even when she began waving her hands in my face…I…well yeah, at that point I had no choice…

“Errr, hello?” I mumbled, removing my earphones which I had been led to believe served as a magical artifact which lets people know you are totally not up for conversation.

“How are ya?!” asked the butt lady, who seemed very keen to know all about me despite my dour expression. I nodded and mumbled something, before remembering my manners (after all I didn’t want to be mean). She then rambled on about something gym related that I didn’t understand at all, so to both change the subject and be kind I thought I’d try a compliment; “wow, you’re English is great by the way!” “Well yeah…I’m American.” she said in a solid monotone. 

“Haha…well that explains that then…”

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She snapped back from the silence and continued with questions as I wondered when it was socially acceptable to put my earphones back in and continue with my workout. You know, the REASON I am here in the first place! Five minutes passed and that time didn’t seem to come…then ten minutes trickled by….and then I felt I had to make it happen myself, so made my excuses and got my sweaty body out of there, despite not being done.

“See ya tomorrow then John!” 

Argh man…I mean she’s so nice, bless her. But I don’t need a bud every morning at the gym (but now I have one, so oh well) I just need to be in and out! You know, put my body through hell till it cries so maybe, just maybe, I can eat pizza, bacon, and cheese without quite as much guilt as I do when I just have a lie in. I’m not a powerhouse masochist superhero model  type who has ‘NO PAIN NO GAIN’ tattooed across their balls – instead I’m a degenerate blob who isn’t fond of movement across the board, especially (most) movements which make me grunt. ohLIGHTBULB MOMENT! 

What if I grunt really weirdly and say strange things when doing exercises?! Just brainstorming at this point but what about something like; “URGHHYEEEAAAAH, URGHHHH-AHHH-MILKKK, MILKKK, MIIIILKKKKKKKK! OHHHH – YOOLKKKS! EGGYYYYAAAARGHHH!” 

I mean, surely no one will speak to me then? Even people named Kathy…well I’ll give it a go and let you all know…in the mean time enjoy your freedom my friends, unless you’re reading this in the gym – in which case, you have my pity…

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