Friday, 20 December 2019
Reading time 1 minute 31 seconds
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is how arrogant I am, I don’t believe I have much of an ego until I’m brutally reminded that I do.
How many job interviews have you had? I’ve 8. Is that a low number?
Weirdly though I’ve more than 20+ jobs under my belt most of which I got through knowing a person. I’ve always found it useful to know people.
This time of year a few years ago while I was between jobs and as I sat there contemplating life an old manager and friend of mine phoned which meant he wanted something. I like him a lot, I still do, so I listened to his pitch and it was and still is to this day the best I’ve ever heard.
He said he had the perfect job for me and just me. I enquired as to the job description. It’s made for you came the reply. This guy had sales in his blood and knows how to tease you enough to be interested and mine was piqued.
The delivery was perfect. His client wants a person like Mat Wills. I laughed. What nonsense was this. He’d gone too far with the sales patter. Had he been on the Peroni?
The client wanted a person like a little fella they once had in their office named Mat Wills.
It was as if all his Christmases had come at once as he knew me and knew I was sitting at home in my pants doing nothing. After a few minutes of being assured it wasn’t a wind up and just for the craic I thought I may as well give it a go so agreed to meet him.
I was a job description. My ego could barely contain itself. I was beyond flattered. On the way to the meet I worked out how much money this would bag me and what I would spend it on.
I nailed that job interview. We shared a few jokes talked about old times. They didn’t just like me they loved me and thought it lucky I was available. It was as if both parties had attended the perfect date. I went home on an ego high. My smile touched both ears. I was a job description!
The next day they didn’t phone. I’d like to say I played it cool but I didn’t. I’d phone myself from the landline to make sure my mobile was working then I’d check my voicemail to see if I was left a message while I was testing my line. This loop is tough to break.
Day three I received the call. I didn’t get the job. I asked for the rejection to be repeated as it sounded like I didn’t get a job. A Job for Mat Wills.
This was confirmed. I could not be me. I reminded them
that I was the job description. They apologised and said the gave it to another person. Could they be more Mat Wills than me? How is that even possible?
Time has now passed and I’m recovered from the weirdness of not getting a job that was made for me, but I’m still chuffed that I was a job description. One day I’d like to meet that person who was more me than me. I bet they are great. Oh Look my Egos does exist!
Have a brilliant Christmas and new year. I’ll be back in the new year.
Photo: Dear Santa, I would like a festive Stormtrooper please.
Friday, 13 December 2019
Reading time 2 minute 58 seconds
Happiness equals your reality minus your expectations
Do you recall your first ever live music concert? Mine was a big one, which is a sentence I never thought I’d get to say. The Big One! The greatest of great of the great 80’s concerts. No not Live Aid, or Queen. It was “Wham! – The Final” on 28th June 1986 and I was 15.
The pop Duo Wham! had decided to split up and were having a farewell concert.
Wham! were the biggest group of my generation. My dad’s generation had the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Slade. We had Wham!
Were they on the same scale as those other groups from my dad’s generation? Who knows?
To us at the time they were bigger than anything we’d ever witnessed. That’s the great thing about being a teenager. Everything is new and better than everything else anybody else has ever liked. Ever.
To give you an idea of how big Wham! had become, they were first western pop group to play China, featured on a satirical puppet show name Spitting image and biggest of all their lyrics were on the back of teenage magazine Look In so I knew what they were singing about. If you haven’t sang along to a taped from the radio version of Club Tropicana in a pair of speedos in your bedroom then quite frankly my friend you haven’t lived.
I didn’t really know what to expect of my first live concert but an event happened that day that still makes my skin break out in Goosebumps.
There was a crew of us about 15 strong. The excitement in the air could have been bagged and sold as a narcotic. Everybody felt it. There was nothing but today. There would be no tomorrow. Wham! the greatest pop group in my living history were splitting up. Life after this event was cancelled.
We arrived at Wembley Stadium, the sun was the brightest it had ever been before which is weird considering the sadness of the day. My rainbow spectacles have been in place for over 35 years on this event so the memories have become Disneyfied. Everyone was smiling. Wembley Way had heart bubbles of love floating in the air. All of the 80,000 audience knew each other through a shared love of Wham! Pickpockets had taken the day off, ticket touts were only selling at face value and handing out useful tips on hydration and sun care and I was there.
Inside the stadium at our seats I was spellbound. I’d never witnessed that many people together. Then I had the experience. If I knew how important it would be to me later in life I’d have paid more attention.
I sat with my mate Nick Hughes. I’m fairly sure we’d known each since we were babies but my memory of that time is a little hazy. Nick was and is a lovely person with a cheeky smile that can light up any room and make you feel warm and loved. He looked at me, gave me a smile and said come on Willsy, let’s do it. I was ready! This was it.
Nick rose from his seat in one fluid movement and put his hands above his head then sat back down. I followed suit, nudged the person next to me and they followed suit.
People around us started doing the same. Then the action travelled as if it had a life of its own.
It traversed our row, slowly at first, it snaked down and then along multiple rows. One moment it was ours and then was opposite us on the other side of the stadium.
We had started a Mexican wave in Wembley.
Myself and Nick looked at one another and giggled like school boys, because we were school boys. We were so excited. 80,000 human beings were joined collectively as one. We had made this happen. The wave continued. It travelled around the stadium like the Tsunami it was and raced towards us. The speed took my breath away.
OK Nick, get ready. The timing on the next part was vital. It reached us, and we repeated our movement as did everyone around us. The wave moved on. 3 circuits later and it started to dissipate. That’s 5 new Wembley circuits in today’s money.
The concert happened. It was brilliant but not as brilliant as the feeling of creating that Mexican Wave with Nick. To this day, it’s one of my proudest achievement. If I would have had children they probably would have been my second proudest achievement as you never forget your first.
I may need to get out and experience life more.
Photo: I want one of these cows for Christmas.
Friday, 6 December 2019
Reading time 3 minute 26 seconds
I mean, it’s sort of exciting, isn’t it, breaking the rules? — Hermione Granger
I don’t like that Harry Potter character. I’ve argued with children and adults who were once children about it and they all agree, I’m wrong. So as punishment to myself I took my Mrs to see the Harry Potter play the Cursed Child up London’s West End or as my dad called it “The Other End”.
It was a Christmas present It’s so popular the next available tickets were nine months away. I’m clueless when it comes to gift buying, I once got her gym membership so this was fractionally better. Apparently.
6 weeks before the day, I started receiving emails from the theatre. Was I excited? Of course, I wasn’t excited. It’s a play.
Excitement comes from finding a tenner in a pair of old jeans or your football team making it into the Championship playoffs against Blackpool who you beat at new Wembley securing promotion to the Premier League even though you missed the goal as you went for a wee and they scored once your back was turned.
Excitement is not a play.
As the day drew closer I received more emails. The rules were strict, no one under a certain age, no food, no drink and don’t forget to enjoy it.
My girlfriend was more excited than me. I rarely see her impressed face as we’ve been doing this relationship lark for over a decade but a Harry Potter play
had brought it out of her. Thank you J .K Rowling and me I guess.
When we first courted I took her to see Russel Brand perform at the O2. I brought her an expensive steak dinner with cocktails beforehand. The show was then used for a scene in his new movie where we became extras. That is a tough date to top so I stopped trying but thanks to this orphaned little wizard kid, I may have another shot at the title.
As we queued outside the theatre we hid our food as it clearly stated you’re not allowed any on the numerous emails. I didn’t want to eat in the theatre but I always carry food and snacks in case of an emergency. People were throwing food into bins and pouring expensive bottles of water down drains. The homeless should be camped here to get the grub, that way the orphaned wizard could help them too.
The entrance to the theatre had a security checkpoint similar to an airport. I answered questions about my water bottle and they found my distraction apple. That was the one I left for them to be distracted by from all the other food that I’d hidden. It didn’t work. I had to jettison the lot. It was key that no one ate during the performance as it was paramount not to spoil the show.
Once inside there was an announcement at 5 minute intervals to switch off your mobiles. There was even a person walking around with a sign. There was to be no interruptions. This was to be an unmatched theatrical experience and nothing should ruin it. It truly was a great sign.
With 1 minute to go my girlfriend squeezed my hand and gave me an excited look. Yep, I was nailing this date. I couldn’t see what possibly could go wrong. The house lights dimmed and we were off. A moment later I was swept away by the magic of the show, it truly was glorious fun and even better as stupid Harry Potter was barely in it.
45 minutes in and I’d returned to a childlike state. I ohhh’d and I ahhhh’d with my fellow audience members. It was as good as promised. I was transported to Hogwarts and nothing would ever spoil this moment.
Then there was a noise. It came from our left so close I could almost touch it. The noise stopped and then repeated. Was that a baby crying and part of the show? It was called The Cursed Child after all. Was that the Cursed Child in question? If that was the case why were the sitting near me?
No, it wasn’t part of the show. It was a baby. A real Muggle baby.
Who brings a baby to the theatre? It sounded very young. Did they bring their new kid because they had to buy the tickets 9 months in advance and didn’t know they were pregnant at the time of booking? A Baby was clearly a breach of the rules.
My fellow audience members were initially a bit taken back but were all being very British about it, even the Americans. The baby then started crying uncontrollably, like all crying.
The actors on stage were not phased as the show must go on. Sadly, this was not the case for us untrained audience members as the howls were distracting and we couldn’t hear the actors, not because it was one of those loud annoying babies although it was, they all are, it’s just that people started shushing.
I don’t have any experience with kids but I know a baby doesn’t understand a shush even if it is smart enough to get a ticket for the hottest show in town.
When people realised that the infant would not shut up they started to tell the mother to leave. There is nothing more glorious than an English theatre goers anger. I’m not ashamed to admit it but I revelled in their unhappiness. It enhanced my joy.
The show faded into nothing as I tuned into their discomfort. I heard my girlfriend think “stop enjoying others misery”.
The mum was not going to budge. She struggled to get this ticket and she was staying put thank you very much. The child would shut up eventually she argued. Let’s just ignore the Dirty Dancing rules and put baby in a corner said someone who was probably me. I was starting to really have fun now.
Eventually, the theatre staff decided to get involved. They didn’t want to but their hand was forced by what they would refer to later as a very rude patron who for once was not me. After some toing and froing mum eventually left. After a few more minutes of complaining from the British things settled down.
After that the play was ruined for me. My brain was distracted by one single annoying thought. How did she sneak a baby into a show that I couldn’t even smuggle my apple into? I had a lot to learn from this woman!
Picture: Me as a toddler pre booking my tickets to the show. [I clearly love this picture]
Friday, 29 November 2019
Reading time 2 minute 28 seconds
Sorry I’m late Saint Peter, I had great nurses – Graffiti in NHS hospital
My recent holiday started badly as I became ill on the plane. I felt pain and discomfort and I wasn’t even flying Ryan Air. I hoped it would go, but sadly hope is not the best medicine.
I planned to relax while away and illness was not going to stop that so on arrival I asked the hotel where I could find a doctor. They were very accommodating and as if by magic one appeared in under five minutes. Wow, I’d never experienced that before. My doctors surgery can take that long to answer the phone as the staff there are so pushed to breaking point.
I choked when he mentioned his rate, luckily he was a doctor and knew the Heimlich manoeuvre. I asked if he was joking and he said I must be British and a fan of the NHS. I truly believe in universal health care for every human on the planet but my beliefs wouldn’t help me now so I agreed to his costs. It’s tough to haggle when you’re in pain and don’t want to upset your Mrs by ruining her or your holiday. The high ideals I hold when I’m not sick are very different to the ideals of a sick me, which is less than, well, ideal I guess.
I should have phoned the insurance company and had a four hour argument trying to get approval but the doctor was as present as my agony and he started to examine me. At one point he was tapping my body like a trades person tests a wall for dry rot.
Blood pressure, Liver, Spleen, Kidneys all excellent. He said I was very healthy and that I had the heart of an Elephant. Was he a vet as well, would that account for his costs as he has double training fees to repay?
He then tested me for diabetes and said this was the best score he’d ever seen. By this stage I was blushing about all the praise my body was getting so I reminded him of the agony I was in.
The body flattery all made sense when he announced it was time to check my prostate. If you are unsure what a prostate is, it’s located inside a males bum, does something important and mine was expecting a visitor.
Just so I understood through his accent I enquired if the prostate exam was the intrusive one and if so I exclaimed that I hadn’t even met his parents. At this he started to laugh. A Lot. It started in his belly and made his stethoscope jiggle. At one point he leaned on the chair and laughed harder. This set me off and I joined the man who was soon going to be very intimate with me.
I was trying to make light of the situation, which considering the doctor was going where the sun don’t shine, made sense.
For a moment we were just two humans sharing a joke. I needed another to stall for time but my mind blanked then he ruined the moment by telling me to bend over. He was going to have his wicked way but in a medical sense.
He KY jellied up a few fingers. I wondered what the initials stood for but that thought left my mind as his probing started. Moon River! It was not as unpleasant as it sounds.
There was a mirror across the room and I saw myself and this stranger behind me reflected back. The doctor appeared as though he was looking for some lost keys down the back of a sofa. It was a successful rummage because he pulled out and like a cork leaving a fine bottle of red wine I heard a satisfying plop.
He remarked that I was an incredibly healthy young man and gave me a prescription and within a day I no longer had the Earache.
Photo: Bear with me again
Friday, 22 November 2019
Reading time 3 minute 21 seconds
You’ll never take me a alive copper – Misquote James Cagney
Previously on week 98 – Myself and Gary setup a semi illegal business aged 11
The next day at school our pop up gum shop popped up. Gary had the looks and people would flock to him once they knew he had the good stuff. I had the charm, personality and sales experience so started hawking our product. The kids stopped what they were doing and respectfully listened to my spiel. For a brief moment it went very quiet then the noise started and they flocked to us. We were inundated with customers and sold out un under 10 minutes. The pop up store popped back down as if it never existed.
What staggered us was that even the Green One sold. The winning formula was ours, all ours. Product, People, Profit. I could not possibly see what could go wrong.
Time to strategize. At our next break there was a high-level executive meeting between two 11 year old Arthur Daley’s. We’d gather every penny we could and head to Asda that night. The world was ours for the taking and we took.
The next day at school we stood in the same corridor and I put the shout out. Everything was gone in moments, we were like a fat calf in a hungry piranha pool and were 40% up from the previous day which afforded us more product that night.
We were fast becoming wealthy. What should we do? Double down was my view and luckily my business partner being as greedy as me agreed. We changed the ratios less Green, more Juicy. The more we brought, the more we sold. Every penny was being reinvested, business was great. By week three we calculated that if we moved into other territories like our rival school and even beyond we could be millionaires before puberty. There are always consequences but not when your 11. That’s a consequence free time in your life.
Over a thousand kids in that school all with the “I don’t give a toss” look because every one of them was chewing gum.
We were not even knocking on the door of being teenagers and making over £40 profit a day each. To put that into context, during October as a comedian I made £20 for the entire month. 11 year old me would be as ashamed as 48 year old me is.
The teachers were on the prowl. It was a game of cat and mouse. Luckily we were big fans of Tom and Jerry so were always two steps ahead. Our place of operation would change minute to minute. Our was the first and only ever constantly mobile pop up. We even started to employ people to deal gum for us at a very small cut which meant free money for us and less work. We did all of this without the internet and mobile phones mainly because they were yet to be invented.
Every child in that school had our product. Wrigley’s share price must have increased. We adapted to our situation very quickly. We no longer worried about Asda stopping us we had enough money and were making them bundles. Why would they switch off the tap, they had shareholders too. We even complained to the manager as they run out of gum one day. What sort of operation was this? They were no longer a supermarket in our eyes, just a market.
We thought we were big shots because we were. Life was great. I didn’t know any other people our age clearing £200 a week profit. We were so cocky that the phrase pride comes before a fall would not reach our ears.
Then one day my business partner was apprehended. A teacher had been shaking our customers down for weeks. It was an east London school and no one grasses so we had no worries there. It was just a bit of unfortunate luck with a little cunning a guile on the teachers side. Gary set up shop, I was across the way and we failed to spot the sneaky teacher. He hid, waited then pounced like a hungry lion bringing down a gazelle. My business partner was apprehended and caught red handed.
I wasn’t even worried that I’d get in trouble. We’d been pals since we were babies, he was like a better-looking brother. He’d never rat me out. The teachers knew we were in cahoots as we were thick as thieves, but I was never punished as they had nothing on me. I hid my stock so when searched they came up empty. Babylon. Gary got a big telling off and they confiscated our supply that he was holding. Luckily it was close to the end of the break so he’d mostly sold out. They could not confiscate his money as that would be seen as proper theft. Our customers were not happy but they adjusted and a few days later no one was chewing gum except the teachers.
It had been a crazy few weeks. We were a little richer, ok we were a lot richer but it was time to move on to our next gig, which I’m sure we’d work out at the next executive meeting. Sadly, we never had that success again. Our car washing business started to fail as we were just not interested because it was such hard work. Selling gum was fun and the profit margins amazing. We were rich for 11 year old and even some 48 olds but the money had very little meaning. Without my work I was lost. These days the entrepreneur is celebrated, I wonder if that can be backdated ?
Photo: Should have gone for these bad boys next!