Category Archives: Challenge

What I Reckon: Being Single In Your 30’s.

Being single in your 30’s is shit. Let’s be real here for thirty seconds. You’re at that age where everybody expects you to settle down and get married and have children. And you are confronted with two realities…

  1. You don’t want to get married and have kids because you are perfectly happy on your own and couldn’t care less. (In which case you are going to cop it from all of your friends and family about what is wrong with you because God forbid you want to be on your own, and God forbid you wanting a life without those ankle biting, life sucking midget’s they call children).
  2. You want to get married and have kids but you just can’t seem to find the right person to be with. (In which case you are still going to cop it from all of your friends and family about why you are still single, and why you can’t find a man and how your ovaries are going to shrivel up and die and you will be like Bridget Jones, alone, found dead 3 weeks after passing under a tub of Ben and Jerry’s you were cracking into on your death bed with your body half eaten by Alsatians).

Now while there is a possibility that I will reach the point where I decide option 1 is the way to go…. (give me a few more years of dealing with arseholes on the dating circuit and this will happen believe you me), I would like for this blog to mostly address point 2.

Hello dear friends and family,

I know you are all well and married with kids of your own and have been that way since you were in your early 20’s. The rest of us however are left to suffer with the ridiculousness that society has dealt us.

Dating today happens through online websites and Tinder. Great. Swipe right, meet up, shag, go home with a probable STI. On to the next. Never get called back.

Go out on an actual date with a person. But don’t stress, he has 7 other dates this week and while he is trying to figure out if he can get the super hot boring girl in the sack he isn’t messaging you for a month and ooop! There it is, the message 6 weeks later that says ‘you were not my first choice but since I have exhausted all other options I thought better looking or funnier than you I figured I would be kind enough to message you now’.

And then there is the guy that loves a massive challenge. And so you provide one. But as soon as you take that next step, bam, he is outta there faster than The Flash and on to the next challenge cause why would you want to revisit the destination you have already been when there are a whole world of destinations (vaginas) out there to explore?

And so we rinse, lather, repeat.

In this world of instant gratification that we live in people expect that they will have Hollywood butterflies all the time, every time and if they don’t, oh well, it’s over. People don’t want to work at their relationships. A friend of mine said to me the other day ‘he said this and that isn’t respecting me or my feelings. I asked her how many times in our 17 year old friendship I have said shit that has disrespected her feelings and we’ve managed to yell at each other and get on with it. ‘Fuck loads’ she says. I am like ‘well why is this any different? It is about how your partner behaves after you call them out on something that upsets you and whether they then try and avoid it’. New relationship teething period. But people give up, freak out. Too hard basket, move on. People are too afraid of investing any part of themselves into anything anymore for fear of getting hurt, fear of making the wrong choices, fear of the thing that most people in the entire course of human history have spent their entire lives endeavouring to find.

And yet here we are. 30. With limited choices. A bunch of scared bratty, ungrateful morons hanging about until the next shag because heaven help us if we actually have to feel anything more than guilt, confusion or a slight amount of disappointment at the end of the day. We are a product of technology, society and too much choice. And we are also our own downfall. Until we decide to make some hard choices, we will never find what we are looking for. And even worse, when you are ready to make those hard choices, you then have to find someone that you have that romantic spark with that is also at a point where they are also willing to make those sacrifices and hard choices. Very few people are. And so back to the drawing board we go.

What I do know is this. I am not afraid to be alone if this dismal fucking dating scene cannot offer me anything more than a cheap weekend ride that won’t call me back later in the week. I don’t want games. I don’t want a disrespectful arsehole. I don’t want someone who is only going to message me once a month to see how I am going because their other shags on the go are busy. I don’t want someone who cannot consider my feelings and my time and treat me as a person they adore.  I am not afraid to instead go and invest my time into my friends who will be with me through my whole life and support me through whatever I need because those are my people. It is these people that will stick by me through thick and thin. And if I can’t find these qualities in a romantic partner then there is always the Rabbit and Duracell and the odd Tinder right swipe to keep me occupied.

 

 

 

What I Reckon: Bullfighting in Spain

Last year when I visited Spain I found myself in Seville at a special time of year for the locals. I found myself there during the bullfighting time. Many people told me this is a vulgar and awful practice. Many of the locals defended it saying that it is not a disgusting thing and that there is a lot of respect for the animal and that it isn’t cruel. Not being one to back down from things that are confronting, I weighed up whether I should or shouldn’t and decided that an informed decision was better than an uninformed decision and that I wanted to go and experience it for myself and make up my own mind.

Admitting this to people was a rather difficult thing. Some of my friends abused me for doing it because they felt I was supporting maltreatment of animals, others were not really understanding of why it is that I would want to go there to begin with. But as they say, when in Rome, and so I went. With reservation, but I went.

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The parading at the beginning before the fighting begins

I found myself sitting in the ring next to a couple of people that spoke enough English to be able to explain some of the things that were going on to me. Between this and the information that I learned from the museums I visited up until that point I could figure out what was going on.

I could imagine that the whole affair resembled a similar scene to that of the Roman Gladiators. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance with brass bands playing loud music and horses parading around. Each matador gets to fight 2 bulls each over the space of the evening. There are generally 3 matadors per bullfight.

So the bull enters the ring. The matador waves the cape and assesses the bull for aggression. After that they get the guys on the horse to come out and they lance the bull in the neck while the bull locks its horns into the side of the horse. For the first bullfight I ever watched, the bull actually knocked the horse over and the bullfighters assistants had to go in and distract the bull to get the horse safely up.

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2 of the horses in the initial proceedings

After they have checked out the bull with the horses, the matador’s assistants go in to face the bull. They have these pom pom like sticks that are decorated in streamer type material with sharp ends on them called banderillas. The aim of these is to weaken the muscles around the bulls neck and to agitate it. After they have had a go sticking about four rounds of these things into the bulls neck, in which the bull is now bleeding enough to see, the final stage begins.

The matador enters the ring to face the bull alone with his cape and a sword. He hides the sword under the cape and uses the cape to assess how the bull is moving and the kinds of passes the bull makes. After a few passes, the matador drives the sword into the neck of the bull. If done correctly, the bull will usually sit down within the space of 30 seconds and the matador’s helpers will come out and sever the spinal cord so that the animal doesn’t suffer anymore.

The first bull I watched was excruciating. The matador missed where he was supposed to put the sword. It took three passes and three swords through the neck for the bull to go down and it made me cringe every time. This part of bullfighting is most awful. The thing that I did find utmost heartbreaking though was the utter confusion of the bull in the ring for the ten minutes it is there to fight for its death. Sometimes the bulls look around and don’t want to fight. Sometimes they are so confused about what is happening you can actually read the confusion on their faces. Sometimes they get angry and they just charge and charge and charge. Despite making the decision to go here, I cannot say that I really enjoyed it. However I did now feel that I could make an educated opinion on what I felt about bullfighting. And my decision was that it is in many ways barbaric and cruel. At the same time I cannot say that it is any better in abattoirs where they slaughter animals for food. The entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

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The matador with cape and sword preparing to kill the bull

One thing I will say is that despite killing them, the matadors seem to have a great love for the animals. Despite meeting a horrid death, these animals are kept in really good environments with good standards while they are alive. They are well cared for. And their deaths also do not go in vain. Every bull gets sent to the butcher and used for meat. Many of the restaurants in Seville have bull meat on the menu during the bullfighting season. In this sense I have respect for the process. However I don’t think I will be going again. I just don’t think I could stomach any more of it and call it entertainment. Best leave me to a chick flick or something less morbid. But if the movie boys could wear pants like those of the matadors, that would be great. Their butts look hot in those things!

 

What I Reckon About: Manners (or lack thereof)

I am not entirely sure whether it was always this bad or whether since the introduction of smartphones and reality TV they seem to have removed the part of the brain that controls consideration of others. The other day I helped out with a school play and afterwards sat to watch the kids perform. The audience was small, less than a hundred people and the kids were super nervous. Unfortunately, about 6 people were late and decided to walk in front of others during the middle of the show. Despite being told that phones were to be turned off, at least three phones rang in the first 30 minutes and one woman even had the gall to actually answer her phone in the middle of the performance and start having a conversation in the front row. Then after about two minutes of a conversation took it out into the hall and started loudly talking on the phone so it could be heard inside over the top of the play. I felt incredibly sorry for the kids. They are trying their hardest in something that takes a lot of guts to do and people sit disrespecting their own kids. Disgusting.

Other things that seriously shit me are:

  • People who take up the entire sidewalk walking in a line and have their heads jammed so far into their phones (up their own arses) that they won’t let people pass
  • Arseholes who get onto a full bus and leave an empty seat beside them so nobody can use it.
  • People who see you reading something at a museum exhibition and on purpose just stand in front of you like you weren’t there reading it in the first place.
  • People who cut into lines in front of others who have been waiting for a long time.
  • People constantly checking their phone while you are having a dinner or conversation with them.
  • Watching 15 people get off the bus but the bus seems to still be so “full” because people won’t move down in the bus that you wind up getting left on the side of the road because the driver can’t open the front doors.

I am pretty sure that things weren’t this bad with disregarding manners fifteen years ago. What I do know is this. This current society is becoming more and more selfish and less and less considerate of others. How this has happened? I am not sure. But I feel that a great deal of it can be attributed to media celebrating celebrities who are morons and behave atrociously.  Enter the Kardashians. People seem to spend more time embracing a culture of those who are so self absorbed that they have nothing to offer and give to others. I sit and watch kids take selfie after selfie after selfie. Their ideas of self importance don’t seem to extend beyond themselves to anyone or anything else. That to me is incredibly sad.

I also attribute it to increased use and reliance on technologies. People are so addicted and attached to their phones that they cannot seem to be able to sit through a movie or an hour long performance in a theatre without checking their phone to see if anyone has messaged them. This constant need to be checking and communicating through phones has decreased our ability as a society to have actual intelligent conversation with another person. Our kids no longer have the ability to communicate in a polite manner with each other because it is all done through text. And adults are getting just as bad.

Thirdly, and I am not entirely sure where this even comes from but people in western societies seem to have such little self awareness or awareness of others. I know where people are around me when I am walking down the street. I am aware of how my body fits and moves through a crowd. Self awareness seems lacking and maybe this is why people are constantly standing in other peoples ways, cutting lines and running into others. Perhaps this is extending from a lack of play with the younger generation now that a large proportion of parents choose iPad’s to babysit their kids instead of throwing them out the backdoor and saying ‘entertain yourself in the backyard’.  Perhaps it is because they can’t see what is happening because they are too busy seeing how many people liked their Facebook post. Perhaps it is that we have forgotten what the word community means and seem all the more focused on the ‘me’ in every equation.

Teaching, Stress and Depression

Hi. I’m a teacher.  I am stressed to the eyeballs all the time. Because of this I find myself not sleeping, lonely, gaining weight and slumping into a state of depression.

Everyday I get up and travel an hour on public transport to get to school. I teach long days and am at school between 8.15 and 5.30 most days. After this I travel another hour to get back home and I attempt to go to my boxing class that I normally love. Some days I am so exhausted I can barely keep my hands at my face. Some days I don’t have it in me to even punch the bag. So I turn around, go home, attempt to make dinner, shower and get to bed. I usually don’t find myself in bed until some point after 9pm. Then I sit down to try and do planning. Or marking. Or some other form of work. I get 6 odd hours of sleep and the cycle starts again.

By Friday I am so exhausted I can barely function. I go home and go to bed and sleep for 10 hours just to make up for the lack of sleep during the week. By the time the weekend rolls around I have to actively force myself to do things or try and see people. For the most part I feel like I don’t have the energy in me to move. I don’t have the wittiness to hold a proper conversation. I am just spent. I am depressed. And come Monday, I have rested just enough to take the edge off to start the cycle again. I do this for 7 weeks in a row until I have really burnt the candle at both ends and then I get a week to try and get myself back on track before it all starts again. And I dread it. If I force myself to go and do something, I start the week off even more tired and the cycle continues. I don’t have many friends here. The friends I do have I see every couple of weeks. I don’t have time to date. If I met someone I would barely have time or energy to spend with them, not that they would probably want to spend time with me anyway considering the kind of person I have become.

I hate how negative I have become. I literally hate everything. I find no joy in anything I used to. I resent that for someone usually so social that I cannot be bothered to speak to people. I resent that for every time I try to make a positive change that I feel like I am pushed backwards by some other problem I have to deal with or more work that I have to face. I resent constantly feeling like whatever it is that I do is not good enough. To the point where I don’t feel like I am enough anymore. I am not enough to be in a relationship. I am not enough to be someone’s mother. I am not enough to do this job. There just isn’t enough of me left as a person to be anything that I once even thought I wanted. And yet for the sake of others I spend the entire day pretending like everything is fine when it really isn’t.

If it is not enough to have to mark piles and piles of exams. I have piles and piles of books to mark. Eleven piles actually. Every three weeks so they can be taken away and ‘scrutinised’ by someone who can tell me I am not doing my job well enough. Oh and the homework marking. Then there are the endless observations chewing up your free time. The neverending behavioural issues that never get dealt with and then get worse because they never get dealt with. The constant fighting and arguing with disrespectful kids who do not feel that they have to follow any instructions you give them or even speak to you in a tasteful manner. I don’t want to do it anymore. I feel like my life isn’t mine and that I am running on autopilot. I don’t remember a time when I felt rested. I don’t remember a time I felt good about the things that I was doing and good about my job. I don’t remember when I last felt good about living. And yet I am stuck dealing with this and I don’t know how to get out. All I know is this….

When you have nothing of yourself left, you have nothing of yourself to give.

Teaching is too stressful. And too much stress leads to depression where I am concerned because my hormones and cortisol levels become really unbalanced. And that is no way to live a life. So what now???

Bored and Boring…. My Worst Fear.

As I sit here and attempt to conjure up some random shit to do I am actively trying to negate my feelings of boredom. As I fall into the daily routine of doing the same things day in, day out, I see my life pass me by with little meaning. I don’t want to be one of those people who wake up 50 years from now and realise that I haven’t done any of the things that I wanted to do. For the most part, people tell me I am crazy. I like to call it ‘actively participating in life’. In fact, every New Years I create a yearly ‘bucket list’ instead of New Year’s resolutions. I work my way through checking the things off the list and it gives me mini goals and something to do.

The weirdest thing about being an active participant in life is that when you aren’t doing something new and different, everything else just seems bland. It is one of the appeals of the road and travel to me and another reason why I struggle so much with staying in one place. Of late, the monotony of routine is really bothering me. Same food, same work at school, same bus, same gym, same same, but different. And yet I have been go karting, dressed as Santa and gone on a park crawl at Santacon, taken bus tours to scenic parts of England and taken a few walking tours. But none of it seems to be filling the gaping hole of boredom I feel right now.

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I feel like a lot of this has to do with lacking new and open people in my life. The hardest thing about living in a new city and working very long hours is that you rarely get to meet new people. You barely get to know the people you do meet because people working day in and day out, they don’t really offer much of themselves. I find myself sitting here feeling like I don’t have much to offer them either. I find myself feeling boring to the vast majority of people I interact with and maybe that is my fault because I spend so much time trying to hide behind the mask of accepted ‘normality’ and I don’t know how to behave. I find that often that I am met with judgement instead of support for many of the random things that I choose to do. “Why go get drunk in the street dressed as Santa? Why go learn to fly a helicopter? Why go on a Jack the Ripper Walking tour?” While I sit here and ask ‘why not?’ I find that I spend a lot of my time hiding what I may consider some of the best parts of me from people. I find it isolating. I find it tiring. And more so I wonder why I do it and why I feel that I have to to be accepted in general society. My answer at the end of the day is always to move.

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As I sit here after just booking my flight to go home and visit my friends and family, maybe the answer it to go back to those that have known me the longest. Those that are used to my antics and have learned to love me for them and not despite them. Those that will even join in when my brain starts getting bored and crazy. But even then I feel torn with not being understood at times. Maybe the solution is to start letting more people in? And yet that would involve investing time to do so, which I don’t have very much here. All I know is this.

Boredom will kill me. It will make me a shell of a human and take away the fundamental parts of me. So I won’t have it. I will continue to try and grow and change and try new things.

As for being boring? I really don’t know. That is in the eye of the beholder. I had a guy in a bar once tell me I was the most boring person he’d ever met. I told him that if I was that boring he could fuck off and go away. But then I also didn’t really engage. I was in a headspace where I couldn’t be bothered, just like I am feeling right now. Too tired to let people in.

So maybe what I need to consider is this.  Who it is that I seem to feel comfortable allowing to behold who I am? And maybe I need to think about revealing more of myself without fear of judgement and persecution, which is a hard thing considering I get told frequently not to scare new people I meet. It plays on some of the largest insecurities I have of myself. Maybe it is time to try and put some of those insecurities to bed and move forward. But then again, maybe it is time to move to somewhere I can feel more accepted for being who it is that I am. If you have any idea of where that is, let me know…. I am all ears.

Backpacking Bed Bugs: How To Rid Yourself Of Them On The Road

Bed bugs. Ugh. the one thing that sure fire knows how to ruin all travel. For me, I am allergic to them. The sheer number of times I have woken up to slapping one on my leg and catching it in the act of feasting on me is numerous. The bites from there swell up into giant circles an inch in diameter and make me shake. The insomnia I experience settling down to sleep after an attack can last weeks and it is always never far from the back of my mind when I set down into a new place.

On the internet you will see all kinds of tools to help deal with this problem and most involve using a dryer. But I put to you, what does one do exactly when they are in the middle of nowhere in the tropics in wet season and there is not a dryer to be found anywhere? So here are my tips of the trade. How to avoid the pesky pains… and if you do have an encounter, things that you can do to get rid of them.

Avoiding Bed Bugs

The rules of the land are as such. Never ever enter a room or move your luggage in until you have inspected the mattresses and surrounding wooden areas for bed bugs. I don’t even need to tell you that if you find one, hightail it out of there quick smart.

The most tell tale signs on sheets, mattresses and bed frames are small brown spots. Where they basically have had their feast and passed it on through. For heavy infestations you will actually find clumps of eggs together in the corners of the mattresses and bed frames and often you will find the bug. My gut will tell me quite frequently whether they are there or not. It is like I am so well honed these days I can smell the creepy things. Anyway, even if you have the slightest feeling they are there, get the hell out and go somewhere else.

What To Do If You Are Exposed

Treating Your Bites

One morning I woke up after spending the night on a sleeper train in India to find that my entire face had been mauled by bed bugs. I had about 7 bites in total each about the size of an American quarter.

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They can be some of the most sore, itchy and persistently lasting bites that you will ever manage. I recommend hauling arse to a pharmacy to get the following to help….

  • Antihistamines – these will not only help you to calm down and sleep better but will help take the itch out of the bite.
  • Cortisone cream – a secondary measure to the antihistamine if you can get it is a hydrocortisone cream such as betamethasone. Use only a tiny amount on each bite and it will help to reduce the localized swelling, pain and itch.
  • Tiger balm can also help. I had one morning where I woke up still drunk in Thailand shaking from being bitten by bed bugs across my back and a lovely Thai woman sat and rubbed tiger balm into my back to try and calm me down whilst I sat shaking and jittery and refusing to go back into any room sleeping. “It’s OK honey, it’s OK”.

If at any point you are in a place like I was in Malang and there is no other place to sleep but this hostel then there are certain things you can do. I for one refuse to sleep in the room if I have been bitten in it. I have slept on the floor or couch of a hotel lobby 3 times now because I refuse to go back in. If you are in a place where you can’t find any and yet your gut suspects they are there you can set your bed up like this:

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The best thing to use is a giant plastic shower curtain made out of smooth and slippery plastic. They can’t walk on smooth plastic.  If I have no shower curtain I have been known to put garbage bags taped together over the bed and tucked on at the sides and then use a sleep sheet on top.

To protect your luggage while in this situation either put it in a garbage bag or sit it on a sheet of plastic or garbage bag on the floor making sure all of the parts of your bag are on the plastic.

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Getting Them Out Of Your Luggage Before Moving On

The most difficult thing for a backpacker to deal with is getting rid of them if you think you have them. Which of course is all well and good when you are in a country with industrial dryers. But when in Indonesia, India, Malaysia even, this just wasn’t happening. So then we have to come up with creative means with which to solve the problem.

My tools of the trade are

  • Black garbage bags (must be black)
  • 90 percent rubbing alcohol. 70 percent will work but the more alcohol the better.
  • A brush. Dish brushes or this solid brush I have in the photo is good.
  • A packet of wipes
  • A can of bug spray containing permethrin, allethrin or any other chemical known to kill bed bugs. In developing countries these are easier to get your hands on than in the first world as many of them are controlled substances here.

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If you are in a place that is ridiculously hot, the aim is to get the bed bug’s core temperature to 50 degrees celcius for over an hour. This will be enough to kill them. Loosely tie all of your stuff made out of material in separate garbage bags. If they are crammed too tightly packed then the temperature won’t get through all of the stuff in the bag and the bug won’t get hot enough to die.

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Any of the stuff you have that is plastic or has smooth surfaces wipe it over with 80% rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes. Also if you have books and electronics check in the nooks and crannies and especially all of the seams of the books. I have found a hatchling in a book of mine before. Freaked the hell out of me. Got rid of that thing quick smart.

I also take to my bags and in all the creases with a can of permethrin. This stuff will kill any bug on contact. It will not kill the eggs, so you will need to find a dryer in coming days or wait until it gets hot enough to put the bag into a black garbage bag for a day or two in the hot sun.

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Do all of these things and you should be fine. Remember, the best defence is checking before you even get a problem. If you do have a problem, your best weapon is the plastic bag. Anything that has a chance of being exposed, including your clothes goes straight into a plastic bag until you have time and space to deal with it effectively. After all of this stuff, if you get the opportunity to throw your stuff into a dryer, definitely take it, because the last thing you want to be doing is taking these little bastards home!

Happy killing spree and ridding your stuff of these awful vermin… and remember, goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!

 

 

 

This Year I Almost Died….

Looking back on the year that was 2015, this was the most life defining moment. It has probably been one of the most defining moments I have ever had in my life. It lead to 6 months of struggling to do things I could ordinarily do with ease. It lead to having to face my capabilities as a human that I’ve never had to deal with. It lead to further illness in India which saw me nearly hospitalized again. It saw me accept that I need a rest. And so I moved to London. I know I have been slack on the posts lately as I have been so frantic educating the youth of London but I promise to get these going again. It’s time to take from what I have learned in 2015, grow, move on and be better. Happy New Year all! I’ll be seeing you soon!

Thomas Takes On....

So I embarked on Everest Basecamp super optimistically. I had the whole thing planned out in my head of how it would go. I had my diamox to manage altitude sickness, cotton wool to stuff between my toes for blisters, an array of different medications for pain, swelling in my knees, general antibiotics for skin/chest/sinus infections, even pseudoephedrine in case I got a head cold. I was more prepared than most. And yet what I was moving towards was nothing that I could have prepared for…..

Two days out from leaving for our trip, if you had have asked me who was going to make it to the camp of me and my friend, I would have put money on me. She had gotten a chest infection from the dusty pollution of Kathmandu and I worked tirelessly for two days doing everything I could in my power to get…

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