Night in an Igloo

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

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

Please 90 GIF

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Sucks GIF

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

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

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

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

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Bustin’ a Nut

Forgive me for venting, but don’t you think nuts get unfairly branded negatively just about everywhere you turn? I’m not sure who decided on the marketing decision to use nuts as a frame of reference for just about everything that isn’t wonderful in the world…but whoever it was has totally ruined the good nut name for generations since, and I for one think it’s not right.

Baby Born GIF

This is how much it upsets me (approximately).

Everywhere a nut dares to venture in the world it has to face horrendous stereotypes…typecast automatically before anyone can even get to know it. That’s largely because the n word has been stretched and contorted out of all reality, and transformed into something that it doesn’t resemble at all…here are just a few unfortunate but all too real examples:

That guy licking his dog’s leash looks like a nutter – let’s cross the road.”

– when detailing a possibly mentally ill man, and his infatuation with an inanimate object.

He thought he had came back from the dead to spread Noah’s message. He was completely off his nut.”

– when gossiping about a friend’s recent revelatory adventure whilst in the throes of an opiate high.

Urgh, this disgusting salad has a nutty taste…let’s go get a burger instead.”

– when blaming nuts for the overall dissatisfaction you have with your grossly unfulfilling healthy choice.

Omg Aragon GIF

Aragon is absolutely sick of it.

But you see it shouldn’t be this way, and we can be the change. After all nuts can be your friend, if you would only look past all of the false tall tales and into your heart. They can be great sources of protein, and from my personal experience are great listeners. They’re also rich in antioxidants, and have a number of other uses; such as something to throw off people who get too close to your picnic, a last alternative to have with beer if the world runs out of salty/cheesy snacks, and a whole host of chat up lines – such as “you remind me of a walnut, because you have a brain and I want to eat it.”

With all these plus points it’s an absolute insult that they remain slandered at every opportunity…so what are you waiting for? Get out there and reclaim nuts for all of their positive traits! Don’t let a few bad apples ruin it for the rest of them…

Snow White GIF

For the record she loves nuts.

…and if you really have to hate on a certain group, make it apples. They don’t keep the doctor away at all – just ask Snow White. 

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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.

What Willy GIF

“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.

Huh GIF

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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Frozen (Sweden)

Sweden – Karesuando ~ 2013

“Live a little” – what does that phrase conjure up in your mind? For me it used to be something I would attribute to getting out, and doing things, experiencing, you know…living. I thought it was usually coupled with things that are a little reckless, or less than mature – for example; perhaps you may think it is a bad idea to have another ten drinks when you have work the next day, “live a little!” your moronic friend will cry…and you do it. Or maybe someone suggests you go on holiday with them, but you really think it is best for you to make the rent payments you owe – “live a little!” says the friend with no money-worries, and therefore no understanding of what you are going through. AND YOU STILL DO IT.

Well sometimes you do, it feels good to throw caution to the wind sometimes – just to do something, even though you know it is stupid…perhaps it is the fact you are going against societal expectations? You are acting out of character for a split second – so for a moment you feel free, as if you are in complete control of your choices…then the next morning happens. Shit. All that responsibility starts flooding back…hello, old friend. 

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Anyway, this is a story of one of those times – those silly moments where you go against your better judgement, and just act irrationally for a change…it feels good! Then it feels terrible! Then…well, just have a read, then you’ll understand:

Continue reading “Frozen (Sweden)”

Why You Should NEVER Ski.

Have you ever been skiing? Because you see, I hadn’t until this Saturday – so the whole thing was a completely foreign experience for me! For those of you who haven’t, and/or are visitors from out of space, let me give you the low down…

…basically you get to wear bizarrely fitted clothes which always make you feel like you’re either incontinent, or as if your pants are forever at your knees – this is all thanks to the strange swish, swish, swish the material provides. But forget about that, it’s not important – so yeah, then you put these big moon boots on, which you are sort of expected to walk around in, as if it isn’t a big deal…but you look like a demented zebra who is trying to walk on their slightly bent hind legs. Seriously everyone just staggers around, trying to pretend like they are walking properly…as if they always walk with their legs positioned in a strong C curve…

Weird Walking GIF

…then you attach these sticks to your foot, and you have these walking stick things. Except they don’t really help you walk so much, as just get tangled in your new-fangled extended feet contraptions, and doom you to fail from the first off. Your natural reaction is to laugh at all of the morons who are falling over…it’s your own personal screening of You’ve Been Framed…like a 3-D performance just for you! But then you fall, and it is no longer funny. You want to change the channel, but no…you are living it, this is real life. And now there is slushy grey snow down your butt-crack. And no, it is not at all pleasant.

Anywaaaaaaay, I didn’t do too badly – at first. I was on the baby slope as they called it, or was it the bunny slope? Either way it made me feel rather emasculated – why can’t it be called ‘the mini GOD track’ or ‘the tiny TITAN’…why do we have to feel like shit just because we’re not fucking winter olympians?! But I digress…I was doing pretty well, or so people lied to me anyway. I hadn’t fallen down (apart from when I tried to help another person up, and ended up being pulled down with her! Doesn’t count…doesn’t count…) I was actually getting a lot of confidence, and had started to shoot all the way, throwing in some imitation skill moves I had either played on a Playstation, or watched on a bad movie from the 90s. As I said to many…I felt like Pierce Brosnan….but probably looked more like Piers Morgan…

Piers GIF

So I was killin’ dem slopes, yo. I hadn’t caught any air, or curved the…alright I don’t know any skiing/snowboarding slang so I’ll just stop for both our sakes! I was doing well, so after a lot of pushing I decided to take my amazing skills to the big hill. WHAT A FUCKING DISASTER OF A DECISION. I mean I had an incline as soon as I saw the damn thing…it was basically as steep as a wall. Like an actual wall. There wasn’t much of a slope at all. But I still found myself sitting alongside some small children on the rickety steel lift thing…what the hell was I doing…and was I responsible for these children now, should they tumble to their death?! 

I needn’t have worried. They whizzed off with no problem. On the other hand I peered down the track uneasily, with all the confidence and cheer of a man on death row. It was basically the same thing. But only one way down…which was, like down, down. A new version of down I had no idea was even a thing. Sheer drop, break your neck, rest of your life as a vegetable level of down. That’s when gravity took hold…and against my will I was just sliding down this thing…I tried to retain composure….the speed increased, and increased, and increased…I thought about slowing down, but this hadn’t been much of a problem before…what had people told me about fries? Or pizza? Or…was it watermelon? No…maybe I’m just hungry! Trust me to be thinking of food at a time like – 

SLAMMMM! My pizza was too damn cheesy for the slope I guess, and I went tumbling, and falling with the grace of a rhino on stilts – I felt my leg click, I suppose I must have dislocated it or something….no matter, still tumbling, still falling – it should stop soon. Cartwheel here, back flip there, gravity will get sick of me soon, and move on to someone else to bully…hmmm…I think…

Ski GIF

But in that moment, looking up at the sky, I was relieved to have jarred to a halt. I was positioned awkwardly, splayed out like a swastika – basically the most offensive snow angel you’ve ever witnessed in your whole entire life.  I eventually dragged myself up, I was barely a quarter of the way down the hill…and could see me leg somewhere in the snow right up near the top…well okay, not my leg – but my stick slidy ski thing that had jolted off from my right leg – I’d have to reapply it, and continue on this cursed path…

But no, there was to be more shame, and embarrassment to come. You see the patrol ski guy…who thinks he’s so great because he has a red, and yellow jacket, with a little cross on it…and he can probably do backflips intentionally, rather than you know…by accident like me. But still, doesn’t make him any better than me! Apart from maybe, just maybe…at skiing…

He picked up my dismembered leg. And yanked off my other one. “YOU. WALK.” That was all. I was left alone of this icy tundra…just with my little grandpa poles to help me down, as everyone else whizzed past me…I felt like a pensioner version of spiderman…trying to walk down this basically vertical slope…digging my heels in, and bending my knees, so that I didn’t tumble, and turn into a giant destructive snowball – if cartoons have taught me anything, that is never fun, and ruins everyone’s day involved.

At the bottom, I got back my skis, and returned to the other hill. I was the big fish again…then again that’s not saying much when the other users were largely seven, and under.

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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!

Patrick Bauble GIF

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…

Blackadder Stare GIF

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!” 

Santa GIF

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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