Bikes, and Bros (Greece)

Greece – Zakynthos ~2011

It’s somewhat of a rite of passage for young adults in England to go on a “Lad’s/Lasses’ Holiday” at some point…at least where I come from anyway. Now these holidays are unlike any holiday you will likely ever experience, for a few reasons…but are still pretty simple to sum up – so how about I go ahead and do that, just so we are in no doubt:

Young people. Sun burn. Intoxicants of every description – and a strict code which makes sightseeing, and the absorbing of any cultural elements of the country unimaginable.

In short, the unfortunate place becomes an absolute wrecking ground of glow sticks, bubble machines, and cheap booze for a few blazing weeks of debauchery…and likely spends the rest of the year recovering and rebuilding…until it’s time to go again. 

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Despite not being particularly my thang, back in 2011 I was returning from the US with a rather handsome refund for all of my various student exchange costs…and as coincidence would have it my old school friends were planning a holiday and wanted me to join. I agreed without a second thought. In fact I’m so stupid that I didn’t even know I was going to be getting this aforementioned refund until the last second, so it felt like a free holiday. Sort of like finding a tenner in an old pair of jeans.

The trip started off at an ungodly hour, something about letting the Mammy turtles hide their eggs in the sand without the distraction of a blaring jet plane beneath them. It’s sort of understandable, I mean they’re turtles after all – not the Easter bunny, so they need more help…but it still made for very groggy red eyes indeed.

The coach from the airport took forever. It circled the island dropping off a few people at a time at various hotels, as twatty Liverpudlian sing-songs rang out through the slightly ajar windows. We were one of the last ones…typical. Some guy who looked like Gareth Gates (if he was slightly overweight and worked at a bingo hall) kept standing up and shouting out the hotel names whenever we were getting close – I was told he was our holiday rep, and that he had a strange Pokemon sounding name like Zippy, Zappy, or Ziggy. He was also making all sorts of suggestions about “getting on it”, “getting rat-arsed” and “getting mashed”. None of this seemed particularly appealing, or at least not with him anyway. We rolled our eyes, and made a few comments at his expense – mostly surrounding his obnoxious haircut. In that moment we vowed to keep ourselves to ourselves.

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We rose at different times the next day…that’s the problem with a group; some want to lie in bed (which is fine, you’re on holiday after all) and some want to go out and see things. The issue lies with doing both of these things together – as unless you wheel the sedentary people around on a wheely hospital bed then you inevitably have to split up. The day passed by beautifully; lying by the swimming pool, iced glasses in the freezer ready to be filled with draught beer (great idea) , and all in the company of friends I have known for years. Bliss. 

Then Zappy Ziggoles (or whatever) turned up. A dark cloud would have passed over the swimming pool – but he was far too short to block out the sun in any meaningful way. However he still put a dampener on things; he started saying something about drinking tables, or drinking under tables, or something like that…which I have never really understood as I much prefer being above my tables and using them as intended – as a place to rest my glass. There was some sort of “partaaaay” and we best get involved or we will miss out – and blah blah blah – please go away and leave us alone. Please Zigglyzoof, please.

That night, that first fateful night…was an absolute trainwreck. And no, it was nothing to do with Mr. Ziggy. I wish I could blame him, but I can’t. We very quickly got separated as a group, despite the relatively small street on which most of the main bars and clubs were located…cheap drinks that taste like strawberry flavoured piss served in luminous buckets will do that to people. In between the fist-fights, blaring music, and people selling unconvincing knock-off Rolex watches – there unsurprisingly wasn’t much time for  cordial conversation and quiet relaxation time.

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We lost one of our members…and he didn’t turn up until the next day – looking like a cast member from The Walking Dead, but with slightly more deterioration. Our first instinct was to insult him (naturally) but after that little period had passed we asked what had actually happened to him. The jokes stopped after that, in place of head shakes and wide shocked eyes.

Let’s just say he had found something which promised to make things a fun party, but then the party ended up being dreadful. So like if you were invited to an all you can eat doughnut event – but then it was in fact a suicide pact party. That’s not exactly it, but it sort of is. Essentially what you need to know is, whilst we were dancing on tables and being sick in a back alley, he was running wide-eyed through the streets and later attempting to drown himself because he “felt he probably deserved it”. Scary. In fact if it wasn’t for the help of two strangers, affectionately referred to as “The Guardian Angels” for the rest of the trip, he may have been a goner. They had ran after him, seeing that he was in…distress (to say the least)…and dragged him from the depths of the water and back to the hotel. This apparently took some time as his directions kept changing.

That was the first night – and we had booked for two weeks. We naturally started to pace ourselves, well not really, but we were at least aware of how bad it could be if we weren’t at least a little bit careful. The only time I wanted to be in the sea was when I was cooling off from the unforgiving sun, not begging for forgiveness while I plunged myself into some sort of biblical punishment. In lieu of the latter we began to go out and experience more; we hired quad bikes and roamed around the island – seeing the old part of town and marvelling at the best views, we actually began to talk to people and share our stories, we even took Zippy Zapplin up on a few of his suggestions…and had a good time doing it too. 

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The two weeks felt like a lifetime – but also as if they had passed in a second, it was weird. I often think back to those moments spent laughing and living life; shaving our heads into weird pineapple looking cuts, having to spend two weeks sharing a double bed with a dude (so we could keep the best room), not caring what day it was…

I mean holidays are great, but having amazing people to enjoy that time with – that’s priceless. (As long as you don’t do the whole drowning thing, obviously)

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By the way, yes – I’m back. Apologies for my absence my dear friends. You see I have recently started a wonderful new job (content writing/social media stuffs for a small charity), and that has taken up a lot of my time both physically and mentally. I’m trying to find a balance. Hope you lovely people are all doing well! I’ve truly missed you.

Youth vs. 20 Something (Holidays)

Is it better to look at ancient podiums – or dance on sticky ones in nightclubs? 

WAIT. Hold that thought…as I suppose you could do both…although just the one time – after all UNESCO people are such sticklers when it comes to boogeying on their priceless ruins. But for the sake of this post how about we pretend that the two are mutually exclusive? And that one sort of trip contains that of an avid flip flops and socks wearing tourist, and the other of a red-necked nuisance. Okay?

You see I’ve been fortunate to go on both sorts of trips and they are – OH HEY LOOK A VISUAL AID RATHER THAN ME EXPLAINING!

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Yup. Athens and Zakynthos (Zante); both in Greece but both completely different – just look at that distance, oooh wee. Actually this is why I HATE HATE HATE with a capital claw hammer when people check off a country from their “been to” list after seeing just one city during an hour long coach stop. NEWS FLASH: You haven’t been to  England if you have only seen London, no more than you have visited China by taking a selfie on the great wall of China – sorry to be that guy…but…well…facts and all that. GO SEE MORE THINGS, NOW!

And also location aside, holidays vary massively…simply put they are not all the same! If you go for a nice church retreat to Holy Island with some holier than thou nuns, you are likely to have a different experience than a pupil widening weekend to Ibiza with the boys from your five a side team. So stop trying to pretend you can see it all in one go...you can’t. 

So with all that in mind, let’s compare the two trips – and see if there is a winner (spoiler alert, there isn’t):

First up is one of the most famous cities in the world – although these pictures barely do it proof (thanks to my goofy stupid face, apologies internet):

 

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Athens, Greece: Aged 25 (2016) – This was part of my mega-trip after leaving South Korea I met with my sister and headed to the birthplace of democracy and the old stomping ground of my boy Zeus…don’t worry, there was still a lot of beer!

Key moments:

  • Having the amazingly delicious, and healthy (not true at all but it’s nice to tell yourself lies sometimes) gyros every single day for every single lunch. I also learned I had been pronouncing the name incorrectly…it’s “gee-ros” not “guy-ros” apparently.
  • Spending ages in lines to see the amazing historical sites…and then feeling cheated at the fact they were propped up with unsightly bits of scaffolding.
  • Having a staring match with this grumpy guy in a laundrette – and losing. Atheniens are some of the most miserable people I have ever met (but perhaps they have good reason to be.)

But this wasn’t the first time I stepped foot in Greece…the first time was a lot more lively and a lot more hazy too…I give you, Zante:

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Zante, Greece: Aged 19 (2011) –  Oh to be young(er)…more tan, less hair, and a whole lot of memories. Good times – minus the times I was throwing up of course…

Key moments:

  • Having two double hotel rooms with a balcony connecting both just for our group – ideal. But due to some sort of error (or accidentally on purpose?) I had to share a bed with one of my pals…weird at first, but after a few hundred shots of unidentified alcohol: not at all. 
  • Getting talked into allowing multiple friends to have a go cutting off my hair…which essentially looked like a half stripped kiwi for the rest of the holiday…and actually for years after. 
  • Whilst off his head one of my friends almost drowned himself in the sea, but was fortunately saved by a couple of random guys – who were aptly dubbed his “Guardian Angels” for the remainder of the trip. Safe to say he was a lot more careful after this experience.
  • Almost crying upon returning to my home and ordinary life…as life on this paradise island was pretty much well…errr…paradise. Which sort of makes sense I suppose.

But alright,  which one is better? Almost dying from exhaustion after two weeks of non-stop madness, or feeling a newly stuffed belly a cafe hopping vacation gives you?

Well…NEITHER.

There’s a time and place for everything – especially gyros. ALWAYS GYROS.

But I guess my advice is that you take the time to just enjoy whatever kind of experience you are experiencing…just go with the flow and enjoy it for what it is. Don’t cram. Just live in the moment…that way you will have something organic to savour later on.

Wait…why am I suddenly so hungry? 

Gotta go eat something, bu-bye – but make sure you leave some sort of experience you have had in the comments – don’t let me be the only one…my God that hair cut and earrings…what was I thinking?!

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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…

Continue reading “Silly Sausage”

Simple Tips for Novel Planning (Video Request)

I’m currently working on a new novel…rather excited about it actually – I promise I’m going to come through with this one (motivation through “wooooo, you can do it!” calls would be greatly appreciated!) so it is rather bizarre that I got a wee video request asking for tips on planning out novels…

If you have any advice for myself or other writers then remember – sharing is caring! Would love to hear what has worked, and what hasn’t worked for you! 

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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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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HOW NOT TO FACE-PAINT 101!

So this week we had a “fun day” for the kids because there’s a Korean children’s holiday coming up soon! We sang songs, did some arts and crafts, and there was even a magician! Such laughs, such jokes, such jolly good fun! 

Then a big horrible monster of a man ruined it. As soon as he came bursting in a dark cloud was cast above the classroom…thunder and lightning began to crack, and air became cold. The beast spared no one…scarring both faces and minds alike – with simple strokes of a paint brush. Ruining childhoods, and lives with every ignorant flick of his accursed wrist.

Here is a picture of one of the survivors…he’s still alive, but who knows what degree of mental damage has been done?

Face Painting

I’m sorry, so so sorry…what’s worse is this was 100% my best effort. I’m surprised the parents haven’t came around to my home with flaming torches and pitchforks…

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Birthday Blues

Well I have just returned from a few days in the coastal city of Busan, in South Korea – couldn’t have wished for a better holiday to celebrate my birthday! Unfortunately there was to be one final hiccup – and I am still scratching my head wondering how it happened (while eating some birthday toffee, so not all bad I guess!)…

You see, I lost my bank card! But not in the usual fun way a person does during a heavy week…something like taking 1,000 flaming shots, then getting in a fight where you are punched so hard you’re physically sick, and somewhere within the throws of all that madness your card is gone, never to be found again…no. You see instead of a fun story I simply lost mine at a rest stop…on the way back home in broad daylight! Like how does that even happen?! 

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The coach pulled in to the stop, and the fella said we had ten minutes. So I scrabbled around for all my necessities…which were only two items; my phone, and my bank card. I then made my way to the scruffy bathroom, that had blatantly never seen a wash – and then continued on to the little store they had there. I was suddenly very excited about the fact that I would soon be scoffing down delicious cheese flavoured snacks! My tongue was salivating at the selection, as I grabbed bags of cheesy doritos, and eagerly joined the line. But when it got to my turn, I went through a pathetic mime routine…touching my pockets, and shaking my head, without uttering a word – as if the loss had stupefied me into a dumb silence against my will.

I retraced my steps, which inevitably led back to the piss trail of the horrendous public bathroom. Which was not a welcome discovery…the hot dog brine type smell that lingered there, greeted my nostrils with a horrible flare, so strong that I could taste it. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, so looked frantically at the floor – faintly hoping (kind of) that I would find it somewhere in, and around the sporadic clumps of men’s stray pubic hairs.

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But it wasn’t to be. 

As I got back on the coach defeated, I was obviously a little bit annoyed. But I can now say that I have extracted a few positives from the situation – which I would like to share with you all…

Firstly I was relieved that I had lost my card right at the tail-end of the trip, as it really only hindered me getting snacks – which is a huge deal to me, but I know not literally the end of the world! Anyway people offered me things, and another friend paid for my taxi home once we arrived. I then let a Korean friend know I had lost my card, and he was immediately on the phone to call up the bank. and cancel it! Then the day after I was invited out for dinner, and drinks by a Nigerian friend I don’t even know so well – so of course I declined, explaining my situation – my friend was there with a card he had loaded with 100 dollars, and told me that “brothers always have each other’s back…” I was touched, but desperately tried to jam it back into his pocket – he wasn’t having any of it. Then the next day a work friend greeted me in the morning with a McDonald’s breakfast (some of you will know how much I love those bad boys!) as she knew I wouldn’t have been able to buy myself breakfast…my point is, there are some truly good, honest, and kind people out there – and I am lucky to know a handful of them!

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Oh, and special shout out to the lady at the bank for getting me a new card on the same day! She’s a miracle worker!

Well I’ve rambled on a bit, hope you don’t mind me sharing these little tales – I just thought they served as a reminder that the world isn’t all doom, and gloom – egos, and selfish ambitions. Have a great day my friends, and perhaps try and be the best part of someone else’s too! 

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SANTA CLAUS IS REAL.

Well it’s beginning to look, a lot like Christmas…don’t worry, I am not about to break into song! I just love this time of year…that festive feel, that holiday spirit, that – well, whatever you call it! I just unashamedly still, love Christmas!

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Unfortunately it has came to my attention recently, that many foolish souls have been spreading a rather hateful, and malicious message…something that isn’t Christmassy in the slightest! And this is something for which I will not stand…as a resolute Christmasist! 

What I’m raving about are those Scrooge-like fellows, who wildly claim that Santa Claus, is NOT repeat, NOT real! Which is of course crazy!  And I have a story to prove it!

I was six years old, possibly seven, when I found myself sitting on a train with my Aunt. I’d just visited her in London, so I had just enjoyed a couple of days of looking up at big things, and eating ice cream. I was quite content, just staring out of the window – and holding on to my new “Evil Cat” soft toy, that a nice lady in Pizza Hut had given me. You could squeeze his belly, and he would emit a chaotic “MUAHAHAHAHAHA” giggle.  Amusing for me, probably hell for all of the grown ups. 

Amidst all of this fun, someone caught my eye a few rows down. I instantly stopped squeezing Evil Cat’s belly, and stared. There was a man, he was maybe sixty…or eighty, well he was old anyway. And he was sat there reading his book, minding his own business…but for some reason I couldn’t look away. There was something special about him. But it is rude to stare so I tried my best to look down at the floor, and out of the window…but I just…couldn’t! I had to have one more peek..then one more peek…then one more…

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It was strange, I definitely recognised him from somewhere. He wasn’t like everyone else, who were either sitting there with a bored expression…or eating a horrible looking sandwich, that smelled like sick. He had a little smile on his face. His cheeks were chubby, and red –  he actually looked comfortably relaxed in his seat, in between sips of his hot cocoa…

And that flowing white beard! Not many people have that, it’s usually jus-

“WAIT! …WAIT!” I shouted desperately,

“Shhhhhh, John! Try, and kee-“

“BUT…BUT IT’S-“

“John, people are trying to re-“

I didn’t let her finish whatever she was saying, and simply pointed (rude, I know!) at the man sitting a few rows down…Santa Claus”, I announced proudly.

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She stared too, and I waited in anticipation for approval…“it is, isn’t it?!” I blurted out hastily without thinking. She then smiled, and said she wasn’t sure – and that perhaps it was best to just go up to him, and ask.

Now this sounded like utter madness, to me! But it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity, I mean…how many kids get to say that they met Santa while he was off duty, on a train heading to the North-East of England? I haven’t heard that said, EVER! So there was only one thing for it, I had to go for it! I mean the worst thing that could happen is that he says, no – and then I burst into flames due to a severe embarrassment overdose…

I pulled off the chair, and began to shuffle slowly over to him – I turned back a few times, and there was my Aunt grinning, and giving eager thumbs up. Once I got to his row, I just stood there – transfixed. Thankfully he smiled warmly, and said hello.

“ARE YOU SANTA CLAUS?!” 

I couldn’t help it, it just burst out without me knowing! He maintained his smile, but I instantly regretted it, I wished in that moment that I had just stayed seated…that I had just carried on squeezing Evil Cat’s belly. I shifted awkwardly on the spot, awaiting his answer…

“Yes. Yes, I am.” he whispered in a hushed tone. I didn’t say anything, instead I immediately fled back to HQ to report the news:

“IT’S HIM! IT IS! IT’S ACTUALLY HIM!” 

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She asked what he had said to me; “well – I came back here to tell you…so, nothing…” I suddenly realised how I had missed out on so much in that opportunity, I had let so much slip through my fingers! My Aunt agreed to come along with me, to make right my wrongs. 

We had a lovely chat; I asked him why he was on the train – he said even Santa needs a break sometimes, to which I thought fair enough. He showed me some photos, of him and the guys (his reindeer, and his elf friends). His wife looked friendly on the photos, he said he missed her a lot but he’d be back with her soon. He actually remembered my name, once I told him – he said I had been pretty good this year, which was such a relief because I was half expecting my poor performance in maths class to affect my present haul that year!

My Aunt said we best leave him alone, that he had a lot of things he had to do for all of the other children…I nodded, and walked back to my seat.

Just before Christmas a card arrived from him personally, with a photo of him, and his wife on the front – they certainly did look happy to be reunited. It was nice to know he hadn’t forgotten me, because I certainly didn’t ever forget him…

Have yourself a very merry Christmas!

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Red Light (Netherlands)

The Netherlands – Amsterdam ~ 2010

(I am missing my friends from home – so, I naturally find myself reminiscing on old times…in particular, about an old adventure we had together a few years ago…I thought you may as well come along for the trip down memory lane!)

One good thing about where I’m from…(and there are many reasons don’t get me wrong!)…is that  you can hop on over to the ferry port, spend the night on a ship, and wake up in Amsterdam. I must have signed up for something many moons ago, as the company often emails me with special deals, and offers – the most important of which is said trip for £35 ($55!). There’s no excuse, so you get together your nearest, and dearest – your A-Team, and rush to pack your bags for a fun-filled weekend! And that’s what I did back in 2010! 

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I’d have to miss some time at university…I don’t even know why I am including that bit of information – as if I deliberated the decision at all – pfft,  I didn’t give it a second thought! I think I “asked” one of the professors, and they said it was a bad idea…and then I went ahead, and booked it all up anyways! I hadn’t ever been on a holiday with friends before, and the thought of a few days away with a few of my best’uns, had me in no doubt whatsoever…that this was a good idea!

We arrived at the ferry terminal early, we were well prepared – which is another way of saying; loaded up to the necks with alcohol, we only had to endure a couple of nights, but didn’t want to be either caught short…or worse, having to pay the extortionate rate on drinks at the ship’s bar. You are quite literally held hostage…in the middle of the sea, and have no choice but to shell out whatever they ask…it’s piracy basically, they are just less ARRRRR about it, and no one has a peg-leg, or a sharp hook for a hand. But still…pirates in the most underhand way! 

Anyway, there were four of us – and it was two to a room, so naturally there were some fights over who was with who…and after that was finished with, a fight over which room was the main room, so to speak. You know; the room where everything fun happens, and everyone congregates in for the partaaaayz (with a z to emphasise the  extra coolness)…people tried to give stupid excuses, but the fact is it’s easier to pass out in your own room…and depressing to leave a lively place, and enter a silent graveyard.

Still…you’ll have a cleaner toilet…so…hmmm…maybe I didn’t think it all the way through…

Never mind! Because soon we were all together, laughing, and drinking – I don’t know which we were doing more…the laughing, or the drinking – but both were seeing their fair share of action! I can’t even remember what was so funny now, but I still get the warm feeling looking back; something about a badger had me in stitches…and, errr…someone’s socks or something? What was it? Hmmm…well whatever it was, I couldn’t fucking breathe for giggling!

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The shenanigans were just getting started when there was a bang on the door…somebody with a name-badge, saying we had to keep it down…it was 8:00pm after all, and people were trying to sleep. (Huh?) We tried our best after this, but soon it became apparent that this would be impossible – this was back when I thought vodka mixed with something sweet was the best thing in the world – it isn’t, but after a few strong drinks you begin to believe your own bull-shit. Anyway, some bright spark said that we should go out on the top deck…that way we could be as loud as we wanted, and not bother anyone. Seemed like a stroke of genius! What wasn’t genius was one of my friends knocking on everyone’s door in the corridor as we headed out…”YOU FUCKING STUPID BASTAAARD!” I said, in one of those really loud-whispered screams, where you want to make it seem like you are shouting, but still want to do it quietly so as to avoid detection…I think he got the message, anyway – we fled the scene, and began to scarper up the metal steps to the deck…

There we serenaded the night away – sing-a-long, after sing-a-long – of whatever tune came to mind…we probably acted out a few Titanic scenes too, and definitely had many more laughs at each other’s expense. After all, that is what being real friends is all about!

The morning after was, well…rough. As we were leaving the ship some official looking types with shirts, and practical shoes said we had made a lot of noise last night, and they weren’t too happy about it…we didn’t have the energy to deal with it all, but tried to explain that we had went outside so as to avoid bothering people…everyone could still hear our singing somehow…I was a little offended, as honestly I thought I had been hitting some good notes, and particularly when it came to some of The Libertines tunes, I thought I had really shone. Suppose not. They stripped us of our passports, and said we’d get them back “if we were good.” We didn’t understand, but nodded, and moved on – hoping we would be able to sit down sometime soon.

That’s when we were shooed over to the far-side of the parking lot, and instructed to get on the coach that was set to take us to the town-center of Amsterdam…it was a harsh ride; we spoke largely in mumbles, and most of that was based around the subject of being sick – and how if the driver wasn’t swerving so madly – we’d be fine. As soon as we arrived, one of us immediately sprinted down a back alley…so we ran after him, thinking he was leading the way (he had been bragging the night before, about how he has been twice already)…when we caught up with him, he was hurling his guts up next to a cheese store. Maybe he was like, allergic to dairy? Yeah, probably not. Anyway, it took everything I had not to join him, as the faint foul flicker of stomach acid trickled up my nostrils…

But then I spotted a McDonalds, and all was forgotten! This would sort out the killer hangover! And it certainly did! Soon we were renewed, and replenished – and bounced out on to the streets for a good look around!

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The cool guy strut didn’t last for long though, as I was nearly killed by an over-eager cyclist on every single street – before I knew it, I found myself walking a lot slower, and with a lot more caution than before! In other words I stopped stupidly meandering into the cyclist path…oh, the shame. 

Anyway, the “experienced” friend said we just had to see the Sex Museum so we did – but…honestly…no one has to see this place. Not ever. Oh my goodness, what an unnecessary pile of shit place it is! Just a load of bits, and pieces…cocks, and knobs, willies, and twinkles – jammed together in one place…I think it was supposed to be shocking or something, or overly vulgar for comedic effect – but seriously if you’ve seen it once, then this will probably bore you as much as it did me, (and I was 19 at the time!) It’s safe to say, that after this we were very suspicious of everything said friend said, we had to see.

To raise our spirits we visited a local cafe, where amongst other things you can buy these special cakes which have magical powers (or something). We sat for a while, and just relaxed…soon the positive spirit was back with us, and we began to find our sense of humour again. Mind we were a little tired, so much running around the night before…and then today, so busy…what with the coach, and err…the McDonalds…we had a little lie down on the couches, but this didn’t last for long. One of my friends wanted to have a discussion about a pressing issue, something that just couldn’t wait, something that I simply had to hear!

“Why did the cow jump over the moon? Like why? And…how? That is never explained…”

I didn’t really have an answer for that. Actually I didn’t have a fucking clue what he was even getting at, but I nodded politely all the same. But made sure to roll my eyes at one of my friends, so I could get his attention – and  start my own discussion with him…this one was really a pressing issue – not just some stupid cow-moon scenario. This one mattered – this one was important.

“Hey…hey…seriously though now – Martin Luther King was a fucking nice guy. Don’t tell me any different. He was a nice guy. People think he wasn’t…BUT HE WAS, AND THEY ARE WRONG.” 

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This is what I can recall (ish), but the rest is lost in the fog. There was probably a lot more – but it will have just been along a similar theme…that he was nice, and no one knows it (pretty sure people widely agree he was nice, so not sure where I got that from…hmm…) Perhaps my friends got sick of me, or perhaps I had suggested it – but for whatever reason, we were back out on the street, looking for more sight-seeing spots. What actually happened was a lot of walking down the same streets, and circling around…and overall confusion. Where were we? And what were we supposed to be doing?  The cow jump over the moon friend was leading us…but to where?!

Now I must point out he isn’t the brightest in the world, God love him – but he started to explain that he had been leading us towards the red lights. Because “you follow the red lights, and end up in the red light district.” We laughed in his face (obviously!), and said that was the stupidest thing we had ever heard. And also, why did he even want to go there? I am no expert in those kinda things…but 2pm, really? He said he was intrigued…that’s all, just wanted to see the place…and with that he spotted another red-light, and was off on his way. It’s almost biblical isn’t it? Well no, it isn’t…but, yeah. 

We laughed, and considered just letting him go – and returning to the bus without him…but that little thing called guilt began to sneak in (dammmn youuuu!) and we ran to pull him back, in a bid to make him snap back to his senses, if at all possible. The lure of more food seemed to do the trick, just fine! Go figure, ey?  

It was a shame, but our trip was soon going to be over – and as we piled back on to the coach, we were able to reflect on the last couple of days…actually we just fell fast asleep…but still, reflecting on things sounds better.

Amsterdam Pic

 A few snap-shots I have just re-discovered! Please note my friend’s “hotmale” t-shirt he bought in one of the tourist shops – also note my fake smile (I was jealous that he spotted it first!)

Once we got back to England we were all exhausted…and it was mutually decided that the only thing that could remedy this, was a humongous breakfast…a colossal amount of bacon, and sausage…eggs…toast…mushrooms…whatever else you can find, throw it on a plate! Oh, and a cup of tea – milk, no sugars…because, you know – diet, and all that…we began to discuss everything that had went on, as you do…checking, and re-checking who had said what, re-opening certain situations, and moronically trying to defend our actions to one another.

I laughed so much that weekend, and things were certainly more simple back then – but at least I have the memory – and at least I now know, that most people do agree that Martin Luther King was a fucking nice guy. What a relief. 

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Waffling On (Belgium)

Belgium ~ Bruge – 2004

I re-watched the fantastic film In Bruges recently, and it reminded me of my trip there over ten years ago! Back then I had no idea about what to expect from this idyllic little spot…I remember asking my Mother, and her telling me something about riding a canal boat.

Didn’t exactly sound like party central to the thirteen year old me!

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But what I found in Bruges, was a treasure trove of beauty, and a haven of delicious things!

I mean the beautiful Gothic center alone, some of which dates back to the 1200s, is simply awe inspiring…and reason enough to visit as it’s an amazing place to just wander around. It is one of those places, that is nice to get lost in…unfortunately, after a while your arm hurts from all the whoa, look at that pointing when you spot little things of interest…but that’s actually alright, because you can sooth your pain by eating your body weight in some of the finest waffles on the planet!The best emporiums make it in front of you, which is a bit of a tease, but makes the experience all the more special…then you layer them in cinnamon, and sugar…I can’t stress enough, how good these things are – they are crunchy on the outside, and chewy in the middle (if done right!)…oh sweet Jesus, Mary, Moses…that stuff is the thing of heaven.

I can picture that first bite now…that taste that made my whole life flash before my eyes…

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Speaking of which, I remember buying a couple of bags of them, to bring back, and share with friends at school. They were battered, and broken by the time we arrived back in the UK…I remember the surge of secret glee I felt at considering they would probably not want them anymore…I’d pretend to be hurt for a bit, then take them home, and scoff the lot myself! Fools!

But that didn’t happen, and I had to fight back bitter tears as I watched the waffles deplete one after another, till I was left with a load of empty plastic bags,  and even more regret. So word to the wise, triple what you think a normal sane person would bring back…and then triple it again. In fact, you will want to pick up some of the delicious chocolate too…so best to just bring an empty case, or throw out all of your clothes, and possessions before you leave so you can have plenty of space for that which is more important: confectionery items. In fact, it is totally okay to tie whoever you are travelling with up, and use their plane seat as extra storage for all of the tasty treats you want to bring home with you.

I know I am waffling a lot, about…well, waffles…but if you are going to waffle on, then what better subject than waffles? I can’t get waffles out of my head…there’s nothing else I can remember about the place…

Oh wait, no ~ did I mention beer?!

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I was underage by quite a bit, but from what I remember this wasn’t a huge issue, I mean having a little try isn’t a big deal…right? Well apparently not, so we headed to a brewery, which doubled as a museum – and were shown around…we saw all of the machines in action, and were told the history of the place by the cheery owner. He would stop us every so often, and let us try small tasters of each type they produced. I felt like a rebel with every sip, but looking back, the only person who thought I was being naughty was…well, me! 

After a short while the tour came to a close, and I will never forget the Belgian’s closing line…and I quote directly;

“So you have seen what we have, and you have tasted what we have…so I now hope that you no longer drink that English piss. Thank you very much!” 

He then did a little bow, as the group laughed and applauded. I mean, yeah – our beer does taste like horse-piss…even worse when you compare it to the Belgian stuff…but come on, low blow. Mind, he wasn’t all bad, as after that jibe he handed out coupons for one free pint of any beer we wanted! Perfect, the day was getting better, and better! 

“I’ll take that! You won’t be allowed it anyway…” that was my Dad – all I could see was a cloud of smoke, as he sped off to pick up my beer for himself. My Mother snatched my sisters, and quickly followed after him.

There was only one thing for it, only one way in which we could drown the sorrow that accompanies huge losses in life…“another waffle?” I suggested…

And you know what? The world felt right again. So in short my friends…although this was a funny line in the film…

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I can’t say I agree! Because, well…I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I was still pretty impressed!

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