Thursday, 14 June 2012

Life - Drawn By a Kid

According to popular belief, culture, call it what you will, our existence is dominated by shapes.

Life itself has a circle; people have a circle of friends - two circles in fact, a close circle, and a wider circle. Incidentally, there is no link between these two circles in terms of friends being able to move from the wider to the close circle freely. It is us, at the centre of these two circles, who decides which of our friends are in either circle. We may choose to bring someone from our wider circle of friends into our close circle of friends - and we do this via the social equivalent of those toy grabbing crane machines you see in amusement arcades. And like those machines, sometimes mid way through this transfer, we drop the friend - returning it to its original circle. Often because we realise that there is a reason why that person is not in our close circle.

Anyway, circles figure prominently in life - even the phrase "what goes around comes around" is a circular reference. But circles are not the only shapes. What about squares? We are told it is important to have three square meals a day, a common phrase for tidying up is to 'square' things away, and when two people don't like each other or are arguing, they square up to each other. Huey Lewis and The News once sang "It's hip to be square", and as anyone with the slightest hint of fashion knows, Square is the new Black.

And then we have love triangles, pyramid schemes, and our obsession with toblerone - all triangles.

But I don't think life is that neat. I accept that various aspects of life have a shape associated with them, but they are shapes that were drawn by a toddler on a child's chalkboard.

In reality, the circle of life isn't even a circle. It's a wobbly oval/figure of 8 that stops suddenly and then restarts in a completely different place.

Our circle of friends is more of a star shape because even within our 'close' friends, there are some who we are closer to than others.

The only people who get three square meals a day are convicts, and they don't deserve them. The rest of us skip breakfast, maybe lunch, and more often than not have something fast and less than healthy for our evening meal. That's not a square meal, that's the shape custard makes when you drop it on the floor.

And love triangles? Don't ask me - I've never been in one. I've been at one end of a love line - when I've been in love with someone who didn't feel the same way. I've done that on many an occasion, and in fact have also seen a love "V" - That's where I've been in love with someone who has been in love with someone else, and neither of them have been in love with me.

So life is not full of neat little shapes, it's a jumble of badly drawn lines that cross over and stop/start all over the place. It's hard, painful, difficult, and just getting through it to a half decent age is an achievement in itself.

But it's interesting - and I'd rather that than being dull and boring.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Stag Blog: Part Three - Sunday

After the previous two amazing nights, there was the inevitable come down of Sunday.

With only a mild hangover, I awoke at 9:30 and went downstairs for breakfast - only to find that the breakfast areas were packed by hundreds of people who were definitely yesterday. I had to queue for my breakfast - well, that is until I realised that only the cooked breakfast side had a queue. I quickly hatched a cunning plan, and grabbed a bowl of cereal and found a table.

Shortly, I was joined by Dan who was unable to join us in Fancy Dress last night as he was unwell and stayed in the hotel - presumably in Fancy Dress, and playing Hotel Room Drink Facilities Golf (like pub golf, except you get buzzing on caffeine rather than drunk)

Dan then reminded me that a few hours earlier when me and Pat were just about to nod off, he and Marky B had come into our room to drink Rum and Coke, Vodka and Coke, and other Coca Cola accompanying drinks and watch "Babestation" on our TV.

What a pair of tits.

As I sat eating breakfast and reminiscing about the awesome time we had the previous night, I looked around the room and began to vaguely recognise many faces that we had seen out in Oxford. There were also quite a few nice bums I recognised too - some of those guys must really work out.

After breakfast (a further bowl of grapefruit segments, a cooked breakfast, two cups of coffee, and three glasses of Orange juice), it was time to pack our things in readiness to check out by midday. Justin had to leave early as he was going out for a meal with his missus later on, and was really looking forward to it (in case she reads this).

By midday we were all checked out. James, Brendan and Mike squeezed every drop of value for money out of their stay by not checking out until Midday. Poor old Pat had only got about 2 hours sleep so was dead to the world.

We had planned to play football before we left, but it was raining so went back to the Bowling place for a game. Each of us struggled to 'find our arm' to one degree or another, especially Pat - that is until the middle of the game when he suffered some sort of stroke and got a Hat-Trick of strikes. This would be enough to eventually make him the overall winner.

I don't know where we got those overalls from, but they were a nice prize.

My other abiding memory from that game of bowling will be Brendan's star jump of joy when he got his first strike. If Boris Johnson showed that much enthusiasm, he might be more popular.

The game over, it was time to say goodbye. Being men, we did it in a manly way - firm handshake, man hug, punch in the teeth, or a hefty boot to the delicates. Brendan and Mike were heading back to Birmingham, Jay was taking Dan back, and James, Pat, David and myself were heading back to Sturminster.

En route we stopped at McDonalds where I ordered a quarter pounder with cheese meal, and was promptly forgotten about. Everyone else ordered successfully, I must just have a face that is easy to forget.

We set off again, and soon arrived back in Sturminster. I got home and immediately felt quite lonely in the silence of my own home. I missed the laughter and the jokes, and the banter and the great feeling you get from a shared great experience with great people.

Great friends.

To all the guys, thank you for the best weekend I've had in many years.

Pub Golf at the wedding, yeah?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Stag Blog: Part Two - Saturday

Oh, I was not in a good place.

The noise my eyelids made when opened them was deafening, and my throat and nostrils burned with the acidic residue of bile.

Yes, vomit came out of my nose.

My head was pounding, I was thirsty - but surprisingly, I wanted breakfast. If I had been a third party observer, I would have been sure that just the thought of food would have made me sick, but apparently not.

I got dressed and went down to see what breakfast was on offer. I found Dan in the eating area, who was feeling a little rough himself although he was not as bad as me. I grabbed a cooked breakfast which was sausages scrambled eggs and beans, and a cup of coffee. I ate carefully, but grew in confidence as I felt more settled. Buoyed by my recuperative powers, I finished my breakfast, and then went back for a bowl of cereal and then a bowl of grapefruit segments.

And three glasses of Orange juice.

By the time I had just about finished, Jay appeared - looking worse than I felt!! He was like a Zombie, shuffling along, with a blank expression, trying to eat people's brains. Well, the first two at least. He spoke very softly and quietly - so we all knew he wasn't himself.

Apparently he had drunk too many cocktails the previous evening, and had got back to the hotel with the aid of his dad. David had got Jay up to his room, but then Jay wandered off again and ended up outside the hotel in a bush, which he couldn't get out of. While he was in the bush, he did manage to text his Fiancé informing her that he was in a bush. So he was able to unlock his mobile and send a text to his Fiancé - but couldn't send the right electrical impulses to the muscles in his legs and arms that would have enabled him to get out of the bush.

Incidentally, by all accounts his Fiancé was not overly impressed by Jay contacting her - possibly because he had also rung her four times during the small hours. Funny things Women, aren't they? So fickle......

Jay tried to eat some toast and sausages, but found it difficult. However, he did keep wandering off with a sausage in his hand, which was presumably the only thing that gave him any sympathy - because he got none from us.

Today was the day we did our activities, and a minibus arrived at 11am to take us to Max Events a few miles down the road. By now I was feeling fine, but Jay was not good. He had to sit in the front of the minibus with a plastic bowl (that the driver just happened to have under the seat - not that he's had Stag Parties before) on his lap just in case, and have the window open. He spent most of the journey with his eyes closed - except when he was sick in the bowl. In truth, the road close the events centre didn't help - it was pitted and uneven and the ride was very bumpy.

The centre was in the middle of nowhere, and had no real buildings to speak of. It offered many activities - Paint Balling, Quad Bikes etc. and each activity had its own area. It was quite spread out. There was a small shack where tea and coffee were served, and a seating area nearby. We congregated there and waited to go to our first activity.

It was really quite cold, and as most of us were in t-shirts it was not ideal. I had my hoodie on - but Jay asked me for it. As he was suffering, and I'm such a lovely bloke, I gave him my hoodie. From that moment on, I was freezing.

We had to wait quite a while (about an hour or so) until we could start our first activity. This was a good thing for Jay as he needed the time to continue his recovery. The first activity was Hovercrafts - there were only 2, so we had to go in pairs (I can do maths, me). The man who ran through the safety briefing - which basically consisted of "don't break my hovercrafts", and "be careful with my hovercrafts" - had no passion for it. He obviously had been doing this for far too long.

Me and David went first. While the hovercrafts were easy to operate, the tricky part was getting the balance right. Balancing correctly helped you to go faster and steer better, and you had to corner really early because the steering only turned the hovercraft about a third of the way you needed to. To make the turn, you had to lean over on the side you were turning in to (being careful not to break the hovercraft).

The hovercrafts were fun, but they were slow. We did them on grass and they only go about 20mph - apparently, on water they can do 70mph!
Happily, Jay was recovered enough to be able to take part, and even show off a little by doing pull ups with his legs straight out in front of him on a flimsy wooden frame by the hovercraft course. We all secretly hoped it would collapse.

The next activity was Rage Buggies - single seater dune buggy type, that definitely went quicker than a hovercraft. Keeping the same order we did the hovercrafts in, we all had a go. Most of us averaged around 20 - 23 seconds a lap (it was a small track), but some were down to 18 seconds. It was a good rush driving round the track, sometimes spinning out, gravel and dust flying around. I was a little nervous at first, but I soon got into it. We all enjoyed the Rage Buggies - especially Brendan, who had a bit too much rage, and not enough buggy. Mind you, he doesn't know how to drive.

The final activity was Clay Pigeon shooting. This was my favourite of the three activities. I'd never done any of the activities before, but I really liked the clays. We each got 14 cartridges, and the average according to the instructor was 4 clays hit out of a possible 14. I got 4, and was pleased with that. David and Justin both got 9 clays, which was an amazing effort. By the time we got to do the clays, the sun had come out and it was a lovely day.

At 3:30 we headed back to the hotel, but went straight to the bowling place next door, as they had a sports bar and were showing the England vs Belgium game at 5:15. We grabbed a bite to eat (which was a bit iffy for me because I was feeling rough again).

We watched the game, and then headed back to the hotel to get changed into our Fancy Dress costumes. When I got to my room, my door card would not work, so I went down to reception to find out why. It transpired that the hotel had deactivated my card because there was a £50 fine for me to pay for the cleaners having to clean up vomit in the room. As I was sharing a room with Pat, I had no choice.

Plus it was my fault.

I got the card changed, paid the fine, and got back into the room.

The theme of the Fancy Dress was "Posh" - upper class, that sort of thing. I went as John Cleese doing the Ministry of Silly Walks. I'm tall like John Cleese, and only needed to get a suit and a bowler hat. The other guys were:

David - Victorian Golfer
Justin - Biggles
Dan - Royal Guard with Bearskin
Marky B - Naval Officer
James - Sherlock Holmes
Brendan - Boris Johnson
Mike - Willy Wonka
Pat - Boer War Soldier

And the Stag? - he was Posh Spice of course!!

We hit Oxford town at about 8pm, and initially thought we might be in for a crap night. The first pub we found, the bouncers wouldn't let us in because of our Fancy Dress, and they said they thought we would struggle to get in anywhere. Fortunately, we only walked a little further on before we got into a pub.

The effort we all put in to our Fancy Dress, was plain to see and we all got loads of attention and people coming up to us to speaking to us. Jay got a lot of comments about just how good his legs were. In fact he got a lot of black looks from jealous females.

This time we all were sensible, we took it steady and enjoyed ourselves. Pat did his best to liven things up by very generously buying three rounds of Sambuka shots, and even one bottle of champagne. But everything was spit on.

We stayed in the pub for a good while - largely because they had awesome live music. Eventually, we moved on to a club where we had prepaid for VIP entry and got a free drink voucher.
The club was really loud, hot, and busy - but we all had a great time. We all busted our moves on the dance floor - in full fancy dress!!!

The only slight dampener on the nights proceedings was that Dan didn't come out with us because he was poorly - oh, and when a taxi nearly ran over James, and when Mike complained, some of our group were locked in a taxi for half an hour, when they were released, every taxi from that firm had been told not to take them. Luckily, they did get back to the hotel eventually.

I can honestly say that I had an amazing night. I really enjoyed myself, and was so glad I was in such great company. We did the Stag proud, and he took to his costume fabulously.

To Sherlock, Biggles, Tiger, Seargent Pepper, Boris, Willy, Captain Birdseye, and of course Posh Spice - thanks guys for a great night!!

Stag Blog: Part One - Friday

Well, that was a weekend and a half!

My very good friend Jay Crowder has finally come to his senses and is going to Marry my other uber gorgeous and very wonderful friend (and his Fiancé), Alison Coombe. From the moment he punched way, way above his weight and asked her, and she really lowered her standards and said yes, Jay was set on a collision course with his Stag weekend.

Our destination was Oxford, we would be there from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and right from the start, the epic scale of the weekend was evident. There were 10 of us in total - Jay (The Stag), David (Jay's Dad and Best Man and Stag Weekend organiser - big respect), myself (Tall, handsome and funny), Dan (Jay's friend from work), Patrick (a friend from Sturminster), Justin (a friend of ours from Wincanton), Marky B (a top bloke from Bristol), James (Jay's Brother-in-law), Brendan (James's Brother), and Mike (James's friend). Although most of us knew each other, there were some of us meeting for the first time - but it great mix of people and we all got on really well.

We were travelling to Oxford from various different places; James, Brendan and Mike travelled down from Birmingham, Marky B and Justin travelled from Bristol and Wincanton respectively, Jay and Dan travelled straight from work near Poole, and David, Pat and myself drove from Sturminster.

We (the Sturmunster 3) arrived at the Hotel at about 2:30, and while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we had a beer. However I publicly stated that I wasn't going to go mad on the first night, as I didn't want to miss the activities on the Saturday.

Remember that bit: it's important.

Gradually people arrived, and each person was greeted in proper manly fashion with either a man hug, a firm handshake, a punch in the face, or a swift kick in the flotillas. By about 4pm we were all there, with the exception of Justin who wasn't able to get time off work so would arrive later.

The plan for the Friday night was a simple one: go out for a curry, and a round of pub golf. It was to be a nice, enjoyable evening a good way to ease ourselves into this Stag weekend.

Before I go on, what do you think of, when you hear Oxford spoken about? You think about the seat of learning, the famous University, all those young intelligent minds, and would rightly assume that Oxford is a pretty switched on place, right?

Well, apparently not. They definitely have not grasped the concept of irony. Jay was given a T-shirt to wear which on the back said "The Stag", and on the front said "I love Cambridge". Which is funny because it's ironic, given our surroundings. And yet the number of people that asked Jay why he was wearing that T-shirt when he was in Oxford, was amazing. If this is the future of our country, we're in big trouble kids!

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with pub golf, here is a very simple breakdown:

It's all too much - I can't take it anymore.

Sorry, that was a joke (tell your face).

Pub golf is a follows:
In pub golf, a hole (as in the hole on a golf course) is represented by a drink. Different drinks (holes) are different pars. Par is the number of times you can raise that drink to your lips and drink from it. We chose to play 9 holes so each of us had a card with 9 drinks on it (the same drinks on each card). You can play 18 holes, but it takes much longer.
So as an example, a pint of beer was a Par 5, meaning you had to try and drink the whole pint in 5 attempts - OR LESS. If you did it in less, you were under Par, if you took more than 5 you were over Par. Understand? Good.

We each got a score card with the drinks listed on it: White Wine (Par 3), Shot (Par 1) etc. etc. and we went over the rules (drop shots for spillage, or vomiting during a hole - that kind of stuff). We were in the Indian restaurant, and decided to start there.

You remember how earlier in the day I had made a definitive statement that I would be taking it easy that evening?

I didn't.

We all ordered a pint of lager (Kingfisher I believe - other beers are available), and we started playing. James I think finished his pint in 3 goes, so he was 2 under Par. Other people were drinking too, but there was no early leader. Until of course, I picked up my pint, said "Fore!" (you have to - its in the rules) and downed it in one go. I got massive respect from the other players as I stormed into the lead. I felt great - so I ordered another pint, said "Fore!", and downed that in one go also. I was eight under Par after two holes, and was a clear favourite - but to be sure, I ordered a white wine, and downed that in one, just to strengthen my position.

Now the rest of the evening is a little hazy. I know we left the Indian Restaurant and went on to another Pub where Mike and I talked to a young lady from the Czech Republic, and try to explain the concept of banter to her and her friend. I know that at this Pub, Dan spent hours talking to a Czech guy called Nick, I think? (Nick? Norman? Greg maybe.....I can't remember).
I also remember going on to another small Bar type place and having a cocktail with David called a Chi-Chi, which was very nice - even though it had coconut in it (which I don't like). And I definitely remember sitting outside said bar on the pavement, with my head in my hands, and vomiting violently onto my shoes.

Soon it was time to go (you think?). We eventually got a cab back to the hotel - I say eventually, because three times a cab pulled up, we started talking to the driver and then it drove off without us. It's possible that the sight of me in my 'Vomit Clogs' may have been a deterrent.

I think I was in the Taxi with Justin, Pat, and Marky B. I'm not sure but I know that Justin (poor, poor Justin) was there because he helped me up to my room where I promptly vomited on the threshold, and then inside the room as I stumbled vomiting to the toilet. And he left me there while he tried his best to clear up my vomit.

And that is only the second time I've met the guy. What a hero he is. If Jacinda (Justin's girlfriend) is reading this, you have a wonderful man there, and I don't deserve him.

Somehow, I got undressed (Justin had left by now), and I got into bed and passed out.