Week 74: My Daily Commute

Friday, 31 May 2019

Reading time 01 minutes 31 seconds 

They say in heaven, love comes first we’ll make heaven a place on earth – Belinda Carlisle

Daily commute. Everyone is shuffling to the barriers and as normal I’m away with the fairies. An older lady stops dead in her tracks right in front of me and we collide.

The barrier had rejected her ticket and I was so close to her that you would have struggled to put that rejected ticket between us. We weren’t invading one another’s personal space but we had merged that space into something neither of us had asked for or wanted. I tapped the electronic reader with my card and as the gates opened I indicated for her to walk through and I quickly followed. 

She smiled in gratitude and a gorgeous gold front tooth caught the light and twinkled. Her authoritarian Caribbean tinged accent broke the silence as she announced “You’ll never go to heaven” to which I issued the standard response “at least I’ll be in good company”. She laughed, I laughed. We had shared a beautiful moment and then both went our separate ways.

My brain re-engaged and it all started to go wrong as I processed her comment. 

Why would I not go to heaven? We hadn’t broken the law and surely the very nature of assisting her had given me a ‘Do Not Pass Go collect £200’ ticket straight to the front of pearly gates. I’d been the good guy here and heaven was the least I deserved. As I stood there getting irate the irony struck me that I don’t believe in heaven, BUT I do believe in justice and I had been wronged. I could not, and would not, let this stand, so I ran back to get an explanation but failed to find her.

As is the norm I obsessed over the injustice of it all and over the following days I timed my journeys to be in the exact same place, so I could ask what she meant. That’s two mornings I’m never seeing again.

As I waited at the gate I cursed and then blasphemed. Perhaps she was right and I’m not getting into heaven, but if her ticket skills are anything to go by neither is she.

Picture: Inspiring T-shirts again

Week 73: I’m Going To Vegas Baby!

Friday, 24 May 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 32 seconds 

The house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you.” Danny OceanI was taught to play black jack in the casino at Amsterdam airport by my mate Jonny. I wasn’t a good gambler, so Jonny cleaned up. Years later I used my skills to great effect in the mecca of the blackjack world. Vegas. 

It was my first time in the city and after lying to my girlfriend that I was going for a drink and gamble and would be back soon I found a welcoming table. A waitress asked if I’d like a drink and a deal of the cards later she returned. I thanked her and asked how much to which she explained they were free if you were gambling but it was customary to tip your waitress. So, I gave her a five dollar note. 

Like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn she would magically appear with a new drink as I drained my last one. It was like having the world’s best stalker. The drinks kept arriving and I’m unsure how much I’d given away as tips as the glasses were not there to count. As the booze flowed Jonny’s lessons seemed to be paying off as I was winning and had become a high roller playing 5-dollar hands. All that time I wasted working for a living I realised I should have just come to Vegas.

Later, I went to tip the waitress but had run out of cash. She informed me that I could tip her from my supply of winning chips, what a time to be alive, so I gave her a chip. And then another and another. At one point I mistakenly gave her a $25 dollar chip which, even though I was on a roll, was slightly out of character. I also started to distrust her as I wasn’t drunk and I’d had at least 3 drinks.

I enquired as to the time.

It was 5am. 

I’d been there for 7 hours and not moved not even for a wee.

I went to stand up and the shop keeping waitress was right there but with no drink. Her name must have been Pavlov as I found myself tipping her again. I left the table. I’d won in Vegas. I must be the house. I’d never have to work again. Nailed it!

As I walked out of the casino 7 hours of “free” booze hit me. I saw the bank of lifts that would elevate me to my room and although they were five steps away I reckoned I could make it. I’d grossly overestimated this and fell to my knees. After crawling through the lobby I reached up to press the button and the lift doors opened. I’d only left the casino floor 60 seconds ago and had gone from sober to drunk in that time which I reckoned was a new personal best. No time to crow as I had to get home. Luckily I lived on the first floor and from my doggy style position I could reach that button.

On exiting the lift, via the roly poly move, it then took me a further hour to get to my room. In context the room was 25 seconds down the corridor. I banged on the door. My girlfriend opened up looked at me and laughed, then got angry and then laughed some more. She explained that they pump the casino rooms full of oxygen to help you gamble more. That was the last thing I remembered as I fell asleep while apparently being dragged into the room and left to sleep on the bathroom floor.

Later that day as we approached the casino floor I swore to myself and anyone who could hear that I would never drink again and I meant it this time. 59 seconds later, after a few mouthfuls of casino Oxygen I ordered my first drink which I reckoned was a new personal best for giving up then starting again. A Short while later as if by magic the waitress appeared and watched me lose all my winnings plus some money I didn’t have. Looks like I’d be returning to work after all.

Picture: This is neither mine nor anyone’s happy place. 

Week 72: Email Mistake

Friday, 17 May 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 02 seconds 

Where’s the ANY key ? – Homer Simpson

“Email” my sister once explained to me, “will never catch on”. Of all the things she had predicted this wasn’t her finest hour.

We’ve all had email mishaps and my own email disaster happened when I worked in an Investment Bank. At the time email was a new concept and many business users initially refused to use it, I should have been one of them.

One day I received an email from a team member. It explained how another colleague needed a task completed urgently which in turn meant extra work for me and the team. These days you would call it a lastminute.com request but back then you would look at it and the phrase out of your mouth would begin and end with the letter F…

I was angry. As angry as an old man ordering soup in a deli (© George Costanza) so I spent a while sitting on the handle before deciding to flap my wings and fly. Every other word of my mail was a curse word or what HR would typically call gross misconduct. Probably because I was also being very gross.

I hit the send button and as I did I noticed that receivers list wasn’t limited to the person who sent me the email. It was me, him and all the senior managers of the bank’s IT team and the person I had cussed out.

Immediately I fell to my knees. This wasn’t because I had discovered God, but the Lord did advise me to yank out the network cable in a last-ditch attempt to save my job. With the cable detached I looked up from under the desk like a meercat. My screen still had ‘sending message’ on the screen and I naturally assumed because of my speed and reflexes in saving the situation this could only mean that I was Superman. Obviously a stupid Reply All button pressing Superman.

Several colleagues shouted that their email wasn’t working. History was repeating itself and my technology blunders were spiralling.

However it turned out that seconds before I pressed send the email server had crashed, which meant my mail hadn’t been sent. I returned to my screen and deleted the offending and offensive non-sent email. Once again, in my game of Corporate Russian Roulette, I had dodged a bullet.

The main lesson I learned that day was to stop sending angry emails. If you’re going to be angry it’s better to do it all in person right to their face. 

I later learned that’s also gross misconduct.

Picture: My very loving family sent this. I think it’s me…………. 

Week 71: Indoor Skydiving

Friday, 10 May 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 13 seconds 

I started out with nothin and I still got most of it left – Seasick Steve

Marcus Aurelius the famous stoical Richard Harris look alike said there was once a dream that was Rome. I had a similar dream involving Milton Keynes.

I never thought a kid like me would achieve anything and I’ve done more than I could have ever hoped for so a decade ago I decided to set some goals to actually aim towards. They were;

1. Never visit Milton Keynes 
2. Never sleep in a tent. 

I’d made it that far without doing either and my life was great so they are clearly a contributing factor to happiness. 

Last week I had to find a picture for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe show and went off target.

I’ve a very dirty shameful secret. My loft. I’ve just been dumping stuff there while reaching for a minimalist lifestyle. For everything I give away I put another item in my loft. It’s chaos up there. My rooms in my house are lovely, the loft Is my picture of Dorian Grey.

Out of sight, out of my mind that was until I needed a picture from my past that I knew were in the loft. Anxiety started to kick in about the thought of having to find it. The loft is a reminder that I’ve not decluttered or stopped hoarding, I’ve just delayed it for others after my eventual death.

I had 8 weeks to submit my entry for the Edinburgh show. It is seen by over a million people and hopefully a few thousand of those will want to come watch me. The photo was key and of utmost importance therefore I did nothing for 7 weeks.

Damm why didn’t Digital Photos exist back when I skydived, it would be so much easier. I’d worked myself almost up in too a tizzy and then I had a brain wave.

Just get a new photo. I’m not allowed to skydive due to an accident. So I went Indoor skydiving. The one closest to me was full but they had space in another branch in Milton Keynes or Manchester. I thought of my loft, my anxiety started to kick in. I then thought about the goal to not visit Milton Keynes and my anxiety doubled. 

Life is full of dilemmas. So after a risk analysis was carried out using a coin I booked the indoor skydive in Milton Keynes. I avoid Manchester if I can as the friendliness is like kryptonite to southerners. 

I then spent;

1 hour convincing my girlfriend I wouldn’t become a paraplegic. Truth be told I didn’t know if I would but I was more terrified of the loft.
2 hours driving there.
1 hour in a safety briefing.
2 minutes skydiving indoors. 
4 hours driving back.

Just like my previous skydives, I was terrible. The years of not doing Pilates and Yoga had paid off and made me as inflexible as a brick, well that’s the word I hoped the instructor was shouting at me. 

The time and money expenditure was more than I’d been on stage or earned for the entire month, but at least I didn’t go into my loft and I finally had my photo.

Later that night I needed a suitcase for my girlfriend as we needed to urgently see her family in Manchester. I had to go into the loft. A box I moved out of the way fell over and out spilled my old skydiving pictures.

The universe is a cruel place to be at times, but it beats the alternative.

I still have dreams and goals, I’m almost 50, there is about 15 good summers remaining, surely I can avoid sleeping in a tent.

The End

Come see my Brighton show and you get a free alcoholic drink from the bar if you stay and give me honest constructive feedback. 
It’d be a great help. 
It’s on Saturday 18th May 13:30 in The Temple Bar, 121 Western Rd, Brighton BN1 2AD. Tales of skydiving and stand-up will be told.

And Finally……….
I did a podcast with a friend of mine who I adore. Check it out. The link is shared on my page. 
If I’m being honest her other podcasts with the guy I covered for are funnier as he’s a beautifully talented man who is annoyingly great. 

Picture: Was it worth it? 

Week 70: Bar Fight

Friday, 3 May 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 48 seconds 

I’m pretty much one of the best people I know – Diary of a Wimpy kid.

Do you recall your first bar fight? The memories of mine were believed lost due to poor lifestyle choices in my 20’s, 30’s & 40’s but when they re-emerged last week I thought that my brain must have a Big Yellow Storage Box area and it releases nostalgic bits like a best of TV programme.

There was a girl, of course there was a girl and she was a potential girlfriend who worked in the Wimpy and was incredibly cute. My Nan’s generation would say I was sweet on her. Sadly I was young and unconfident and didn’t tell her that for fear of scaring her away.

We’d been for a few drinks and spoke most days. Not on the mobile phone or text as we were still waiting for them to be invented, we spoke in person, face to face, that’s how I knew she was cute. She once mentioned that I was cute but that’s because I was dressed in my bellboy uniform. Sadly I don’t think she meant cute the same way I did. 

She was a tough west London girl, the kind of girl that would punch you in the face if you disrespected her football team. I’d visit her every day and get a free quarter pounder and chips. I had the impression she was sweet on me. 

We agreed to meet up and go out. I was going on a date as the Americans would call it. When I met her she introduced me to a tall, handsome and incredibly cool bloke.

What sort of weird West London thing was going on here? This wouldn’t happen back East. Who brings a bloke to a date? I didn’t like to say anything as I’m British.

We all had a beer and were laughing, it was fun, then the tall good looking bloke suggested we go to his local in a place named Shepherds Bush. I heard of that from the TV show Only Fools and Horses. Never one to turn down a chance to see how the other half lives and thinking I may have a chance to meet Del Boy I jumped at the opportunity, plus the lady was going and I stupidly thought matey trousers would not stick around much longer, although I did like him because he was so cool.

It was a standard English pub, smelly, smoky and perfect. When we entered it was as if the boozers pause button was pressed as the patrons and ourselves assessed each other’s threat level. We were clearly low risk so everyone continued their conversations. I thought they all looked as dodgy as dodgem drivers. I performed a very nervous cartoonish gulp!

There was a pool table and the players were the epitome of menace. West London was proving scarier than East London, how could that be? I thought they were all rich here and I lived in the rubbish bit? Turns out we all live in the rubbish bit, it’s London.

We started to drink and as the beer flowed my fellow patrons became rowdier and rowdier. Well it was a Wednesday night. I was liking Shepherds Bush.

There was a little argey bargey around the pool table but everyone seemed to know everyone else so it was more like what we call today Banter. Back then I thought it was terrifying. Mr bloody cool was just being cool, and my lady friend was clearly sweet on him. This hurt a bit but I can turn a bad situation good so continued to drink.

The locals then started to take the mickey out of the landlord, he asked them to calm down. One of them thought it would be hilarious to throw his beer at him. The entire pub once again hit the pause button and everyone froze. The silence was not defeaning, that’s not silences role. The silence was scary, that’s it’s proper job.

And then it kicked off. Someone shouted BEER FIGHT and everyone started throwing their lager at each other like an England goal celebration but at different angles. I sat there, my jaw hanging down looking like an idiot as if I was trying to fit in with the locals. 
Then it stopped as quickly as it started as the ammunition had been depleted. The landlord who was laughing said he would not be serving no more beer if they couldn’t respect it.

The pubs patrons looked at him and again the pause button was pressed.

The mental cogs were turning. What else could they throw at each other? The pause button was released when the cry of “BEER GLASS FIGHT” went out. 

It was pandemonium! I heard a shriek and was not surprised to find it was coming from me. Glass was smashing and over that sound was a weird maniacal laugh, he was a weird landlord that one.

The pool table folk were playing a game of cricket using cues as bats and shot glasses as balls. I was positioned in no-man’s land between bowler and batsman. 
Someone grabbed the chalk from the dart board, stamped on it with his big heavy boot and sniffed it up in one manly toot.

Mr bloody cool was sitting there looking, well cool I guess and any chance I had of impressing the girl from the Wimpy was lost, because I was and still am Wimpy.

I left as the punches started to be thrown. I recall that the landlord drew first blood. 
If I had a tail it would have been between my legs. I didn’t get the girl and I’d walked away from the fight, this would never be turned into a Hollywood movie even though it was set in the Wild West

I’m unsure what happened to the cute girl from the Wimpy but I know that I would not return to Shepherds Bush ever again, I couldn’t even watch Only Fools and Horses and it took years for me to enjoy a quarter pounder.

Life has a way of reminding you of your horrible bits and a few years later I ended up living and working in Shepherds Bush. As much as I loved it I always shuddered when passing that pub. 

Picture: No Wimpy for you! 
I’m now a Essex boy wannabe KFC bucket kind of guy.