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.” 

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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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Escaping a Braying

A friend of mine recently created a lovely little video of my hometown, Sunderland. It’s the place we both grew up in, and the place we know as “home” no matter where we are in the world. The clip mainly follows through the countryside and coastal areas of the city- rather than the inner-city terraces that I grew up in – but I found it charming all the same, and it soon had me reminiscing of my past life there, and the many friends and memories I still deeply treasure to this day…

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Mind, that’s not to say that life there is always smooth sailing! And I think this story from the childhood archives should prove that! But you know what? You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, and the good with the bad – and always, always make sure you laugh at the negatives later…

I’m going to stop my rambling and just get on with it, so without further adieu, here it is; ‘Escaping a Braying’:

          Every Wednesday without fail was “Mamoo and Grandar” day. So on days off we’d be there from morning to night, but if it was school term time then we’d have to wait for the bell to go…and it was only then that we could make our way to their home, and their sofa. You’d desperately want to be the first one there to get a proper seat, and dibs on the stuff we weren’t normally allowed; the stuff that rots your teeth and makes you fat – the stuff that other kids had in their lunchboxes every day – you see that’s the kind of stuff that was in Grandar’s biscuit tin. 

It was our little haven, just a few rooms that offered so much. You could have sugar in your tea as long as you kept it a secret, and if there wasn’t anything on the television Grandar would always have old cowboy films he was keen to show us…we could take or leave them usually, but he added a whole new dimension; giving running comedic commentary, and repeating the dramatic lines in even more dramatic voices…“DYAAAA FEEL LUCK-EE, WELL DOOYA – PUNK?!” He was, and still is – the funniest man alive, so sometimes I’d laugh so much at his little routines that I’d spill things on the floor – but it was never a big deal: “these things happen” they’d say. And Buster would probably eat it right up anyway.

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Eventually my Mother or Father would pick us up, and then we’d moan and ask to stay longer – so sometimes they’d sit to have a cup of tea and ask them how’s it going, but sometimes they wouldn’t. As we drove away we’d turn back and Mamoo would be waving us goodbye,  and she’d keep waving and waving until we couldn’t see her anymore. Mamoo is what we called my grandma, although we didn’t ever call her grandma unless we were talking to other people outside of the family…friends at school and others like that who would demand an explanation…it was just more bother than it was worth, so many why why whys and it always came across as weird for some reason. But to my siblings and I, she was undoubtedly Mamoo. Which is pronounced “Ma-maw” by the way…a baby’s mis-pronunciation that stuck forever.

 I remember one of the Mamoo and Grandar days more clearly than any other. I was walking over there, and was already late – probably detention for something that didn’t even really matter; laughing with friends, talking in class, not doing homework – something stupid,  that somehow  translates to a heinous crime at school. I was so late that all the other kids had cleared out from the streets and were nowhere to be seen; I was happy about this as I had to pass by another school to get to Mamoo and Grandar’s house and they didn’t take too kindly to St. Aidan’s lads, or Bent Aidan’s as they fondly referred to us as thanks to our all-male make up. Problem was there was no hiding my allegiance to this suspected homosexual club as the uniform marked me out…in black, white, and the gold stripes of my tie.

Anyway, I was late so hopefully nothing would happen this time arou-

“YA FUKEN BENDER!! OI…OI…OI, YA FUKEN BENDERR! OI!”

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Spoke too soon. There were three or four voices behind me, but I didn’t turn to look – all I knew was that they were advancing quickly, but some way away yet. “HEW! HEWWW! SCUSE ME?!” One of them suddenly remembered his manners, but I guessed that it wouldn’t change the possibility of him booting me in the face with his Rockport boots. “OI YA FUKEN BENDERR MAN!!” It was the same voice, but with a significant change in tactic. I hurried my pace, but didn’t want to run…if I ran it would be like attacks on those nature documentaries with the lions and the gazelles, running would encourage more running, and I was no runner. So I just moved a little faster, but tried to move my arms at a normal sort of speed so as not to arouse suspicion…perhaps it wouldn’t look so obvious and I’d be out of sight in no time! Or maybe if I got around a corner, then I could sprint, and just zigzag zigzag zigzag the streets in the hope of losing them? Well yeah, maybe. Maybe.

“ARNLY WANNA TALK TOOYA YA GAY FUKEN LIDL CUNT!”

I wasn’t so much in the mood for conversation, I just wanted to get to Mamoo and Grandar’s house – it was puddings in the corner day, and there’d probably be ice cream. I reached the end of the road and turned right…and started fleeing just the way I had planned – they didn’t seem to give chase, or if they did the adrenaline of sheer fear powered me beyond measure. I looped back around, and headed on a different route. When I’d caught my breath I took some time to reflect on how I could have probably taken them, and how I shouldn’t have ran – I mean, so what if they were older? I should have whipped out some karate moves, and used makeshift weapons out of things I could find around me…a brick as a hammer, a FOR SALE sign as a spear…I’d send them flying through windows – they’re lucky really, I let them off lightly. Next time they won’t be so lu-

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“WHYAYEE! LOOK HUU IT IS!! FUKEN GAY BASTAARD!” 

Shit. They were only a few feet in front of me. I span on the spot and belted away as quickly as humanely possible despite being knackered as it is. A glass bottle spun past my head and shattered on the jagged pavement – as a strong odour of cheap vodka temporarily filled the air. One of them grabbed at my shoulders with grasping heavy hands, but I shrugged free and darted across the road, not sure of where I was heading. But they were faster. I felt a heavy club to the head, not sure what – and then a boot up my behind. I pushed away in every direction, and one lost balance…falling to the floor in a pile, with a dumb expression stretched across his face. This surprised the pack temporarily, and spared me a few precious seconds…

I was still some way from Mamoo and Grandar’s. There was no way I could run all the way back without them catching up and slamming my head off a lamp post several times, or whatever took their fancy this particular day. So I made a split-second decision, to use this space for an impromptu theatrical performance…I really hoped they would enjoy the show and would refrain from heckling…

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I opened a stranger’s gate, and walked up a stranger’s pathway through a stranger’s garden, and then knocked at a stranger’s door. I heard the lads follow me, and caught a reflection in the front room’s window…they looked unsure as to what was going on. I rapped faster at the door and began Scene 1: “Maaaaammm! Maaaaam!” I knocked again, harder this time – “Daaaad! Daaaad!” Open the door man, I’ve forgot my key!” The lads were stood in the middle of the pathway with a shared puzzled look glazed over their faces. I moved to the window and tapped it while looking around the stranger’s house, it was pretty nice and well decorated – I wasn’t sure what I’d do when I met the actress playing my Mam, or the actor playing my Dad…but this was true improv, and I was out of options. “Maaaaaam, Daaaad! Can you open the door?” I shouted through the letterbox this time…catching a whiff of a scented candle as I peered in…

I felt a small rock hit my back. “FUKEN GAY BASTARD MAN, YA LUK-EE. Awer man…let’s go…” I guess he was the leader and had made a collective decision for the group.  Thank God. I carried on with my little one man play until I was sure they were out of sight…then I double checked the area before continuing on my way to Mamoo and Grandar’s house…

Puddings in the corner were waiting in the microwave, and they’d left me some gravy too. Later we had caramel Rocky bars, but I’d missed out on the ice cream. “Why were you so late?” they mused as the television flickered…

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“Detention” I muttered, as I stood up to fetch another cup of tea with two secret sugars.

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Unpretty Cheater with Brother!

You may or may not know, that there is a new hit talent show in South Korea named ‘Unpretty Rapstar’…it’s an interesting concept as (I assume) it centers more on talent, and less on looks – which is somewhat of a big deal in a country that’s so focused on the importance of physical beauty.

The girls still look attractive to me, but never mind…

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Anyway in one of my tutor classes last week, my 13 year old student brought it up – and I was over the moon that for once I understood the Korean pop culture reference! We had a broken conversation about it for a little while…before his eyes lit up, and his arms begin to flap frenetically like a mad baby chick attempting to fly the nest! Clearly he had something to say, something urgent! 

“Myyy…myy…ARGH! MY…hmmm…” 

(There was obviously a violent joust going on inside of his head, as he attempted to force an English description out of his mouth! But what? No idea…but I knew one thing… it certainly seemed interesting…whatever it was…)

“ERRRR…BROTHER…OLDER…AAAAARGHHH!”

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“Your older brother? You mean, older friend?” 

“YES, YES! Older brother…with…together…AARRGHH!” 

He took to his phone, in search of further assistance – and within seconds pulled up a photo of the show…and then pointed out one in particular – to which I nodded; signifying I sort of recognise her…

“OLDER BROTHER…WITH…”

“Yes, YES?!” 

(I was clinging on to every single word!)

“CHEAAATER!”

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“WHOA! Really?! Together…but cheated?”

“YES!!!”” he screeched, clearly happy with my overzealous reaction,

“Before…before show – with…now…CHEATER!”

I tried to hold my ooohs, and aaahs – my huge gasps of shock at the tabloid smut news! I had just received a major scoop – which is such a turn around; as for once I was one of the in-the-know people, rather than the last-to-know people! I didn’t really know what to say, or do…so I just shook my head, and kept saying something dumb like…“that’s crazy! How crazy! …that’s crazy!” 

“Yes! Crazy!” he repeated,

That’s when he ran another search, and placed his phone in my hands for a second time…yup, and there she was – the guilty party, still looking smug, and self-confident…unbelievable, the things fame does to people…jheez… 

But my excitable student wasn’t finished just yet, as he then pointed towards the text below the image…which read something like: ‘Unpretty Rapstar: Cheetah’…

(Ahem…yes, the penny had well, and truly dropped!)

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“CRAZY, CRAZY! My older brother…with, no…SAW – Cheetah! On show!”

“Ahhhh, right. Wow…that’s…erm…mhmmm! That is…something…”

So yeah, it turns out that the true story was a lot less dramatic – and in reality it was all down to another rather typical misunderstanding…very sorry Cheetah…I’m sure you’re a lovely lady really, and not a cheater! Good luck with the show…

…AND STAY AWAY FROM MY BROTHERS!!!

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Almost at Everest

This tale is about the time I almost saw Mount Everest…yes, that’s right…almost saw. It isn’t a story of how I felt when I finally laid eyes on the huge natural behemoth – instead it’s the story of how I tried and failed.

I should point out that I didn’t ever plan on climbing it – I am not a fool, although I may look, and act like one; I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses – and putting one frostbitten limb in front of another as I take desperate drags from an oxygen tank is not my idea of fun, and most certainly isn’t a field in which I would excel…in fact I would probably have so much to complain about up there I would talk myself into an early grave. Because of this I had arranged to take the Mountain Flight from Kathmandu airport up to Everest to catch a glimpse (without all of that walking and heavy breathing)…don’t judge, come on, I had one day left in Nepal and I wanted to use it wisely!

After all, I bet an actual climb up Mount Everest entails a whole lot of inhumane practices – such as surviving on a diet of weird toothpaste meat energy capsules as there is no space to cook…if that is true, which I have promised myself it is – I can’t do that, I need my food. So, it was the only option to be a lazy piece of work and fly up there. I’ll climb next time…maybe…probably…errr…LOOK RON WEASELY EATING A SAUSAGE!

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Phew!

So I had booked the short tour flight just the night before, despite still being horribly sick (heavy duty industrial strength diahorrea) – it’s unfortunate of course, but it is for that reason that I will probably never return to Nepal…you know for fear of all of my insides falling out of my anus in a burning rush of searing pain…no big deal or anything. It was with this self-instilled no return policy, that I decided whilst I remained in the country I should do everything I can (to get my life’s fill of it all)!

So I popped a bunch of pills, drank some water, wore two pairs of underpants, and hopped uneasily into a taxi to begin the trail to the largest mountain in the world.

Obviously the taxi driver took the bumpiest fucking route known to man, so I was forced to clench harder than a crab claw’s vice grip – there were a lot of touch and go moments, but I held on, justI mean I had to! I am sure we all agree that shitting myself whilst looking at Mount Everest, may have taken some of the fun out of the experience! Anyway, after some jumbled directions about which muddy path I should follow, I trampled down what appeared to be a flooded building site until I found some automatic doors that had been jammed open with chunks of cardboard – I sighed my deepest sigh, trying to put it to the back of my mind…these guys can’t even grasp the intricate mechanics of the door mechanism but I am trusting them to throw me up into the sky in a tin can…smart John, very smart.

It’ll be fine, you won’t die…it’ll be fine. No one dies. It’ll be fine. 

After being vigorously molested by security, I spotted the desk in the distance and slowly waddled my way up to it, occasionally flinching due to what can only be described as adult nappy rash: if for some reason that sounds fun in any way then know that it is not…I don’t want to give too much horrifying detail, but to say that it felt like someone sandpapering your butt-hole, would be an outrageous understatement. It is more like someone…I’ll stop.

Despite the mess that was going on in my lower section, the lady at the desk still smiled cordially, she didn’t judge my diseased penguin walk, she didn’t mind the vague smell of sewage that probably clung to me…good for her…I couldn’t have did it. As I beamed back at her, I began to reach for my passport as I –

“YEAH, WHEN DO I GO ON THE PLANE?!” a strange sweaty man burst from nowhere to shove me aside, and instantly shared a “what the fuck?!” look with the lady, who appeared just as bewildered as myself!

Disgrace look GIF

The guy didn’t look at me once, I assumed out of sheer shame – I mean, know that if I was going on like an absolute prick I wouldn’t be mad keen on giving my victims eye contact, no, no – just do the crime and ignore those affected by it, that’s the code. I didn’t let this little incident get me down though and took perverse joy in listening in to the (pretty one sided) conversation…he kept demanding strange things, asking odd questions and becoming angry when the answers were not to his liking…to the point the lady looked altogether freaked out -he kept wagging his chubby finger and saying “YOU DO YOUR JOB – DO YOUR JOB WELL.” I mean who gets hot flaming mad about there  being no complimentary peanuts on the flight?! Who gets a little rage on because there aren’t two cushions on the seat?!

Well the answer to both of those questions is that guy. I thought I was having a shitty day, but I would take toilet woes to dealing with him any day of the week! The lady had to maintain the classic professional smile throughout the whole torment, I was half expecting her cheeks to spasm due to over use and peel off. She held on. 

When we got through to the main waiting gate area (it was all one large room) I made a sprint for the toilets for reasons which should be obvious by now. I was not disappointed, the smell was just as rank as I had come to expect, there were rusty brown splodges that were presumably a homage to the thousands of people who had entered and pissed on the floor rather than use the disease ridden cubicle. Bizarrely there was a mop in the corner of the room…which was weird…I thought that must be some kind of joke by the staff, like a funny thing which further exemplifies just how unnecessarily putrid the place is. But anyway, joke or not – I had assessed long ago that this wasn’t a place anyone could use for toilet time, so I washed my hands (probably making them even more dirty than before by turning the tap OFF) and then headed back to the main big room. The angry man was shuffling about, still irate, barking at people as he went on his way…I sat down in a far corner well out of his path…ah..no…he then performed an unexpected U-turn and…oh…oh, my…he was heading straight towards me…I tried to look a little bit strange, unhinged even – like the kind of guy you would just think hmmm, not sitting next to him…he may try to sell me cheese he keeps in his pockets, or ask if he can lick my gloves or…it’s not working, he is still coming – do something weird, why is it not working?!

“PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE – PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE – PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE!”

Dont SIt GIF

Naturally he sat down right next to me despite there being ample space literally everywhere else – I felt the violent surges of red creep up my neck, past my cheeks and up to my ears…the anticipation of being put on the spot and screamed at about the lack of peanuts, or whatever other mad crusade he would crazily ramble on about this time. I sat there tensely, wishing I had put the second earphone in when I had the chance…now if I put the other in it would be too obvious a don’t fucking talk to me kinda tactic…which is just not socially allowed for some reason, so yeah – just had to sit there staring at my hands, hoping maybe they may fall off…so that I could have a decent enough excuse to return to the bathroom…but they didn’t, they just stayed there, shaking a little…I looked off into the distance, itching my neck over and over…I started to tell myself that maybe he would just leave…maybe he wouldn’t want to shout at me…maybe he –

“WHERE ARRR YOU FRUM?”

Argh, fuck. I turned slowly to face him – as much as I would have loved to ignore him, or just get up and shoot myself in the head,  for better or for worse – that isn’t me. Strangely, we ended up speaking for some time, at first I gave him limited responses, as it was the usual who, what, where kind of interview, it also irritated me that he kept referring to Korea as Japan…so much so that eventually I just shrugged and started doing it myself. Yeah, yeah – Korea do great sushi, don’t like Tokyo though, far too crowded…mhmm me too…

He asked me what I enjoyed doing, what my passion was – he assured me that you have to have passion in life or you may as well be dead. I said I loved to write funny stories, and make people laugh if I could – naturally, he immediately asked me to tell a joke, which is always horrible – I don’t really do one liners…but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, he just looked at me with these expectant eager eyes until I finally caved…what happens when you drink food colouring? You dye a little inside! It was a little bit like Slumdog Millionaire, as a random memory of a Penguin chocolate bar gag slipped from my memory vault, perfect for this occasion. There was an awkward pause…I was about to apologise for inflicting such a bad piece of cheap humour on him, but he then started raucously laughing, and slapping his thighs – “GOOD ONE! DYE LIKE DIE…DYE IS…AHHH!” 

Funny Laughing GIF

He was impressed that I had thought it up by myself…so was I. There was an announcement that the flight would be delayed, they needed to wait for a weather safety report. But we didn’t particularly care, we carried on chatting about this, and that. He asked me about my family, friends…you know, the usual introduction stuff – when I reciprocated he began telling me an unexpected tale of woe that really gripped me, and has been on my mind ever since…

He was originally from Syria, and had once been married…with one son. He was so proud of him, that much was obvious – he told me he had studied day and night without any pushing, easily passing all of his exams and becoming a doctor – which was the only path he was ever destined to be…he wanted to help people, and had been the same way even as a young boy, always fixing up animals and doing things for his Mother. He then spoke fondly of his wife…the most beautiful woman you will ever see, clever and witty – someone he could talk to deep into the night, never to tire of the conversation…it was the perfect life he said. Was. 

That’s when he told me…his son had been on a bus, on his way to start his first job since graduating, when a bomb blew up, causing the vehicle to fly off the road, and kill every person unfortunate enough to be inside. His wife, once the happiest lady you would ever meet, instantly stopped working and would lock herself in the bathroom every day…after a few agonizing weeks she was found dead, she had shot herself in the head – so as not to deal with the worst possible heartache imaginable. He gestured the gun shot to the head, and began to form tears in the wrinkled cracks of his eyelids.

But he didn’t want my sorrys…he didn’t want my sympathy – instead he made me promise I would live out everyday in as full a way as I could, he held on to my hand and squeezed tight – after all, he said – that is what he is doing. I wondered what he meant, and it was then that he revealed a tattered map, once owned by his son, and told me that he is visiting all of the places he once heard him speak of, all of the places he had promised his Father he would see one day.

Everest had been on the top of the list.

There was an announcement that the flight would be cancelled, and a full refund would be available. You’d think I would be disappointed, as unlike my new friend – I didn’t have the option to try again tomorrow – as I would be returning home the next day. It seems like I had just wasted three hours of my life in an airport for seemingly no reason whatsoever…but the truth is I had learned a lot from this strange rude man, that had barged into me just earlier that day…at the risk of sounding cheesy let me just say this – I walked out with a different appreciation for what life is that day, it’s a flickering flame that can go out at any moment. So you have to make the most of it.

Go on…

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50 Shades of CRAZY

I have held off telling this tale becau-shhhhhhh, quiet! Did you hear that…no? Oh…I erm…maybe it’s just the wind…sorry…sorry…

But yes as I was saying; I have taken my time with writing this story as it still frightens me a little, and truth be told I’ll probably always be a bit jittery about it…wait…did you seriously not hear that?! Oh God…please send help…she’s…here…

Scared GIF

Anyway, it was maybe a couple of months ago now – ahhh, how time flies when you are barricading yourself in a safe house, ey? And I was readying myself for a second date with a lucky/unlucky lady (not completely sure) – you see the first time had went quite well, she seemed fun, kind-hearted, and was outrageously beautiful – so much so I felt like a humongous wart of a man in comparison, like the hunchback with Esmeralda you know? …but I digress…

Despite all that I was pretty confident the second would go well too, just dinner then drinks or something – the usual set up; in all honesty as long as she laughs at my stories again it’s a good time in my book! So we met up and straight away she slipped a note into my hand before excusing herself to the bathroom – on the front it read; ‘you are my hero’…a call-back reference to the first date when she had almost aimlessly wandered into a speeding bus before I outstretched my arm to stop a messy collision – I had a new white shirt on after all, and it wouldn’t do to have been covered in blood spatter! There’d be no getting it out!

Red On You GIF

The rest of the letter was a long-ish rambled account of how happy she was to have met me, how I’m like no other before, and blah-blah-blah, all that good stuff…I thought it was a little much, especially so soon, but I confess I was touched and considered it to be quite cute albeit in a very cringe-worthy 15 year old first-love sort of way…

During dinner things were going okay, if not a little boring – you see, I was trying to take more of a backseat in the hope of learning more about her…I mean I love to tell stories and make people laugh, but it’s meant to be a date not a stand up routine, right?  – and I had noticed how little I actually knew about the person I was sitting across from. She obliged, and talked more about her job as a clothes designer, which I thought was somewhat interesting…she’d also been abroad, living in Australia for a few years…and I attempted to pick her brains over a number of things related to that…but the replies were usually uninspired and drab…one word answers in many cases…ah well…waiter, another beer please!

But then things took a huge U-turn right when I began to talk about the kids I teach, and how dealing with Korean parents can sometimes be a little complicated. Upon hearing this she instantly broke out a rather bizarre (yet undoubtedly compelling) tale…it turns out, she had heard a strange rumour…that foreign guys in Korea often go to teach private English  lessons in children’s homes one on one – which is true. And also she’d heard that sometimes the mothers want lessons too – which is also true…so yeah, still nothing out of the ordinary here…but bear with me…

Bored GIF

The more alarming part of the story is that allegedly these so-called lessons are not totally as they seem on the surface…instead the process goes a little like this; foreign chap teaches the child, after which the child watches the TV, then the teacher goes into the mother’s bedroom…time…erm…elapses…and then he leaves with his wage for the kid’s education, and a handsome tip for his other extra-curricular services…

Upon hearing this I broke out into raucous laughter – regardless of the fact the story was whispered to me in hushed tones as if it were a scene from the Da Vinci Code….I simply couldn’t handle the seriousness of it all, I mean I won’t say it couldn’t happen, or hasn’t for that matter…but it’s certainly not the seedy epidemic sweeping Korea that she was trying to make it out to be!

Well, if it is I am missing out…

“So, is it true…do you do that like every other?” she asked in a stern tone, after which I noticed how her perfectly shaped eyebrows actually look rather demonic when angered, sort of furrowed into a cartoon-esque V shape. All I could do was stare back in disbelief as her eyes burst out of their sockets in an interrogative glare…she was really stony-faced about the whole thing, but I couldn’t be…

“Yeah…yeah of course! Wait…I thought it was normal? Isn’t it? I was just trying to fit in…I thought it must be Korean culture? No? Oh – how embarrassing…”

Jim Shh GIF

She giggled in a really creepy way while stabbing her fork into a chunk of chicken…I was allowed a few moments to dwell on how ludicrous a story and question it was…but only a few moments mind, you see soon she had more to say…

“You know, if I ever find out you do that, hehehe, or cheat on me in any way – I’ll call immigration, have your VISA removed, and have you deported from this country forever. Simple. Really simple. You…out…life here, over. Simple.”

I laughed uncomfortably and squirmed in my chair…“I’m serious. I’ll tell a story in Korean. You won’t be able to deny. Simple, really simple. Out. Never to come back.”

Well, it should go without saying that I stopped laughing, but I couldn’t help but carry on squirming – that was out of my control now as a flood of fear took hold. To say I was incredibly uneasy would be a pitiful understatement, in fact if you want a more crude yet accurate description: I was completely shitting myself.  I mean there I was, sat on date number two and already knowing that if were to upset this stranger in any way, she was mad enough to move mountains just to destroy my life. I’m not talking about the cheating thing per-say, not particularly my bag anyway (too lazy for that business)…but if she was willing to do that what other negative potential does she possess behind those satanic eyes? If I forgot our anniversary would she chop off my fingers and play her xylophone with them? If I couldn’t recall her mother’s name would she remove my teeth use them as board game pieces for her own amusement? If I refused any one of her demands would she feed me nothing but dog food and make me answer to the name ‘Bruno’ for an entire week???

ALL OF THESE THINGS HYPOTHETICALS SUDDENLY SEEMED POSSIBLE!

Crazy Eyes GIF

She must have noted my sudden silence and lack of eye contact (with anything other than my plate), as she stood up and pulled a chair around to my side of the table to perch next to me – her legs outstretched over my own, as she began to massage my perspiring face with her spindly witch fingers. Not exactly awkward…I’d define the situation as err…terrifying. 

I tried to persevere as if I was completely unphased; which for obvious reasons could only last so long. When I couldn’t take it any longer I put down my cutlery and took a deep breath – I knew I had to make my escape, but anything to horrible could potentially spark her wrath, so I would have to approach it all with tact…whilst mulling over this petrifying conundrum I accidentally made eye contact with her grinning face (YOU STUPID BASTARD, JOHN!) that’s when she threw her arms around my neck and started rocking me back and forth while cooing:

“You know I’m so happy we are together. I already feel like we’ve known each other for years, and years. Can’t imagine life without you…don’t want to…”

errr…yeah…sorry to interrupt the story but I have quick query if you don’t mind? Thanks a lot, it won’t take long! Okay, so why doesn’t life have a panic button?! Or perhaps even a Mr. Burns type trap door?! Like at that point I should have been able to reach for a hidden switch under the table and had her removed from my life instantly – it was just too close to a scene from a horror movie to be real…too jarringly awful to be my actual life.  But no!! Instead I have to sit there and deal with it, all the while sweating and shaking as this mental leech attaches herself to me…

Crazy Hug GIF

I’m sure to unknowing onlookers it looked like quite a sickly sweet scene …but it was anything but. Instead I was wishing we were in a taller building – so I could happily throw myself out of it…certainly a solution…but not so much at a ground floor restaurant. I imagine she’d have a lot of questions to ask my bloodied, but still live body – then she’d drag me to her lair to hump before making wallpaper out of my skin, and kitchen utensils out of my stripped bones.

Oh, not to mention ruining my VISA status! (Almost forgot that one!)

Anyway where was I? I got a little side-tracked with the whole crazy killer montage thing…oh yeah, so I was in the restaurant with her latched to me like some sort of evil barnacle when I decided enough was enough. So I just pretended I was really tired and that I should probably head home – which was double-talk for: “please let me fucking leave, so I never have to see you again”.

As we parted she waffled something about knowing I was special, because she now knows I would never do her wrong…and that she trusts she’ll see me again very soon. Yeah…right…perhaps in hell, if I’m unlucky…

Hell GIF

Safe to say she’s blocked and deleted on three different forms of social media…if that fails then I will seek help from two priests in order to perform an exorcism…

Wish me luck, my friends. (Was nice knowing ya!)

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Kid’s Tall Tales

This internet age we live in is amazing; it brings humanity closer together, communication has never been easier, there is a wealth of information at our fingertips – and it’s true to say Storytime with John wouldn’t exist without it! So, what’s not to love about that?!

Creepy GIF

This guy knows…

Well…whilst I accept all of those points highlighted (especially the latter), I must say I’ve noticed one thing that the internet has well and truly ruined…and it’s a big one I’m afraid…

And that is, tall tales. You remember those? When you could hear a fact from your friend, who heard it from someone else, who heard it from his cousin’s ex-wife’s pet giraffe…and yeah, naturally by the time it reached you it was convoluted and contorted into a completely nonsensical story that no longer resembled anything close to reality…but still, it kept life interesting! 

You would probably know at least one person solely renowned for being a “bullshitter”, someone who would tell “tall tales” and basically just come out with absolute tripe that no one could possibly begin to take seriously…but it was fun. and people would crowd around to listen anyway – dissecting the whole story apart, and picking out bits that may be true ,and bits that must be total fabrication…adding in what they had heard from various unconfirmed sources…and so the cycle continues…

Lying GIF

Lies make the world a more engrossing place to be, let’s be honest.

Now what would happen these days, huh? If someone steps out of line, and dares to dream…has the pluck to just start waffling absolute garbage they basically know nothing about – some killjoy is certain to whip out their smart phone and Google whatever it is that has came into question…

“Ah-ha-ha, I have to stop you there…it says here that sushi is technically not raw fish as not all sushi involves raw fish” 

  • complete with a smug smirk despite the fact it wasn’t even pulled from their own brain bank…urgh, makes life dull doesn’t it? 

That’s another reason I love kids. They don’t give one solitary shit about truth, honesty, reason, and logic. Much like myself. They can stand in the face of facts and argue ardently on a point they barely even comprehend – now that is dedication, now THAT should be admired! You see they haven’t matured, I guess that’s what it is – but let’s not consider it in a negative light…instead let’s herald it as a much more interesting way to view the world…

You see a child hears something, perhaps something serious and very grown up…and they don’t full understand it…so they fill in the gaps with hearsay, rumor, and their imagination…and what comes out the other end is sheer unadulterated brilliance!

Hobbit WOW GIF

“That can’t be…is…hmm…tell me more…”

Like today for example, I was talking to some elementary kids about the MERS virus that is currently causing hysteria in South Korea, and they certainly had a lot of errr, riveting perspectives on the whole thing…like how about this? One kid told me that he’d heard the MERS virus crawls around while you’re sleeping – and goes into ladies with baby bellies…eats the baby inside and then comes out to go onto the next unfortunate victim. Horrifying and worthy of a sequel film, but a great tall tale all the same…

But did I reach for the phone? No – I argued in the traditional sense…told him it wasn’t true, and that he needn’t worry. But he insisted he had watched it on the news, and had asked his mother who had added credibility to the claim…so that was that, there was no convincing the lad.  So I admitted defeat, instead requesting he double checks his facts (you know, just in case!)

If there are any bullshitters still out there…then long may you live, and prosper – you add much to the tapestry of life, and I am sad to see your numbers dwindling.

This article is dedicated to my old friend in first grade class, who would tell me his father’s job was to be an Indiana Jones type figure who fought off villains and gorillas in some distant land someplace. I still believe you.

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The Struggling Artist (USA)

USA – Atlanta, Georgia ~2010

As a kid I could sit at the kitchen table for hours and hours drawing – whether it was superheroes, monsters or my teachers – my imagination was my own limit, and I did it all on reams of cheap copier paper (my Dad “knew a guy”)…unfortunately this passion was sidelined to the meager position of hobby once I was pushed into university. Sad times, but that’s life I guess. OR SO I THOUGHT!

After I was accepted to the Georgia State exchange programme, I was told that there was next to no limitation on what I could select for my classes, and that it would all count towards my degree. Four hours of art? No problem! So yes, not only would I be checking out if the food portions really are that much bigger (British people are fascinated by this for some reason), but I would also be enjoying four hours of unadulterated drawing every week, and it would actually be worth something! Drawing?! Obviously, I thought I was well on my way to becoming the next BIG THING…all sorts of thoughts flooded through my head; maybe I should change my name to Salvador…or maybe I should start wearing some weird shit to throw people off…or maybe I should invent something life changing – how about, a sandwich, that never runs out?

Genius GIF

Well I was getting a little ahead of myself, clearly. But it was fantastic news nonetheless.

Let’s fast forward a little bit…so it’s a warm summer day in downtown Atlanta, I’m certainly looking the part of “artist”; that is to say I am lugging an obnoxiously large art folder with me and I have a regrettable hat defying gravity on the back of my skull, possibly cut off jean shorts? Who knows. Basically, I looked liked the kind of guy you would strongly dislike on first sight, the kind of guy who invited and endorsed that kind of bitter prejudice. The kind of guy…well you get the point.

Surprising then, that as I am standing at the “sidewalk”, a busy looking business man runs up to me and grabs me by the shoulders…”EXXXXX-EXXXX-EXCUUZ ME?!” he stammered, in a caffeinated flurry. “Err?” I manage to reply.  “ARRR YOU AN, ARTIST?” I pause for some time due to sheer confusion, you see I wasn’t sure if taking an art class and holding a folder meant that I was a fully fledged “artist” (whatever that means)…but then I remembered I was wearing a hat and cut off jean shorts, so I landed on a definite…

“YES.!”

YES GIF

AWESOME! I NEED AN INSTALLATION DOING, LIKE…SOON! DO YOU HAVE YOUR CARD?!

“Ah. No. I don’t have one of those.”

DO YOU HAVE…A NUMBER THEN?

“Ahhh, no. I don’t have one of those either.”

DO YOU HAVE A SPARE PIECE OF PAPER THEN?

“Sorry, no. I need this for my-”

WHAT THE FUCK, DUDE?

And that was that. He stormed off into the cosmopolitan crowd never to be seen again. He probably found another person wearing a hat, who DID have a card, or a phone number, or a piece of paper, or a fully functioning brain. Anyway, after this I carried on to my class and immediately told my teacher what had happened…she seemed intrigued, and asked me to repeat the exact specifics of the encounter at least a couple of times – after which she looked at me closely with comforting eyes, held my quivering hands in hers and with a reassuring tone said…

“You fucking stupid bastard.”

Shock GIF

And that was the first and last day I ever considered myself to be, an artist. It was a tough gig guys, not for me.

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