Reading time 3 minute 44 seconds
Friday, 11 October 2019
Legs 11 – Bingo
On a recent holiday I thought it would be nice to see a bit of the place on a bicycle. At home while on my bike my neighbour points out that all its missing is an engine, this time he was right.
I romantically think of myself as an average cyclist. I can cycle 120 miles, it’s not easy but I can do it. If I was asked why I could not honestly answer. I know it’s healthy but that’s not the why. I know part of it comes from a childish feeling of freedom. I was gifted a bike as a youth and it was my first step towards independence, I could go anywhere, there was no restrictions. I grew up near a park and would spend summers cycling around it. I’m sure that wasn’t the case but memory fills in the blanks with happiness or sadness depending on what you decide.
I was lucky enough to be on holiday in the Caribbean and enquired about a bike tour. I asked the guide how hilly was the four hour ride and heard the word “very”. With the very little testosterone I had and in a moment of stupid bravado I said excellent. I should have saved the testosterone as it took me ages to acquire that much.
Four of us set off through the town. In any group I always feel like I’m the weakest link. This time I didn’t have to feel, I knew. Everybody I passed shouted “wrong gear”, they were right as I had no cycling shorts or loud lycra top. The town was a hive of activity and there were huge trucks reminding me of robots in disguise, roaring past us on these little tiny roads, it’s always healthy to be reminded of your mortality.
I had no intention of making people laugh that day but most of the people I cycled past did just that. Some car drivers even slowed down to heckle me. “Chicken legs” I heard on more than one occasion which seemed apt.
The other three cyclists were ahead of me and then we started the first hill climb. It was tough going. The sun was beating down and my freckled skin was starting to leak at an alarming rate. The humidity was high. I don’t know what’s used to measure humidity or how but it was as if I was in a small room with seven tumble dryers working full pelt. The sweat was making the sunscreen stream like a waterfall down into my eyes which was good as I didn’t want them to be sunburnt.
I lost sight of my companions on the first bend, partly because of the sunscreen. I then realised that we were cycling up a mountain, not a hill. It was a winding road and every turn promised the peak but like DPD it failed to deliver.
My muscles were burning as much as my skin. I passed one lady sitting on her veranda who said in a beautiful local accent, “You not fit enough boy, turn around and go back down, it’s easier”. Then she started laughing, proper laughing from her gut like you do as a child. I was bringing joy to people through my suffering, which should have pleased me. It didn’t.
Then my legs made the decision that my mind had been toying with for quite a while, they turned to jelly, ceased up and quit. It took the last of my energy to put my chicken legs on the ground. I may have clucked. My lungs were burning and screaming for oxygen. Sadly, there was only tumble dryer air.
I was tired and beat, I glanced at my watch as we must have been going for an hour. Wrong. Only 20 minutes had passed. I’d have to walk to try and catch up with the group. Seven mountain road turns later I saw the other three resting by a bar on the side of the road. I approached them, hobbling, sweating and panting like a dog. They asked if I was OK as I clearly didn’t look it.
The guide took my bike from me which was a mistake as it was my walking aid and I promptly fell over. I was knackered and embarrassed. These people had paid good money to wait half way up a mountain to watch me suffer from heat exhaustion.
The cycle guide said that it’s OK if I want to puke, just go right ahead. There’s no shame in it. Oh, really Mr guide? No shame in vomiting in front of a bar full of people? We clearly have different views of shame.
I grabbed a coke at the bar and I sat down with my cycling chums. The local drunk man came out and started talking to me. Why is it always me? He was interrupted by a woman who was wearing a one-piece lycra bodysuit who also started to talking to me. “Where you from boy?” I must have looked more youthful while red faced. “London” I replied. She explained then that she had been to Chelsea and didn’t like it, then lent over, grabbed a huge spliff off the drunk man and started to puff on it. The smell reminded me of a misspent youth and an even bigger misspent adulthood.
Was I spinning from passive smoking that weed, altitude or the lack of oxygen from cycling? Not that I wanted any of the joint but it was very rude of her not to offer.
She then started arguing with the drunk. I understood only parts of it as they were speaking another language from time to time but even in the anger, it seemed beautiful, cool and laidback. When she called him a fish and I’m not sure why but we all started laughing. It was so ridiculous. Maybe we were all a bit stoned. “Right” said the guide, “drinking’s done, drink up, let’s go” and off we set leaving the drunk and the woman to continue their argument.
We cycled downhill, giddy with joy was an understatement of my feelings, unlike life the downs in cycling are lovely. We turned another bend and I saw the rest of the mountain and vomited. Some of it hit the guide. I felt no shame in that.
I made it back to the hotel eventually and moaned for three days. My chicken legs were cooked.
Picture: On the last 20 of a 120 mile ride
Friday, 4 October 2019
Reading time 2 minute 58 seconds
See you later Alligator – Bill Haley
Being homeless was not my proudest moment in life but becoming a Care Bear was going to fix everything.
I was 18 and after 6 months of travelling I ended up in Spain with my last few quid and a travelling companion. He was a comedian and a singer. He’d stolen a chunk of cash from his mates and was on the run which is not exciting in any way, shape or form.
We’d been in a few scrapes together, lived on a speedboat and travelled a coastline, got drunk with the 80’s band Trans Vision Vamp and even met a genuine angel dressed in white who gave us some food one night.
We were so young and cocky and we thought we knew it all.
One night while sleeping on a rubbish tip in Benidorm we finally admitted to each other that we may not be as smart as we first believed. There are worse places to be homeless and Spain was warm and as rubbish tips go ours was fairly classy.
We’d spend the nights going from disco to disco stealing people’s drinks. It’s easier to pass out on a pile of rubbish when you’re drunk. It’s even easier if your very very drunk.
One day we finally met the right people who were lining us up some regular work. We were going to get paid dressing up as Care Bears and having our photos taken with tourists. The interview was is in a bar named Crocs.
I was more excited about that job than any I’ve had before or since. We nailed the job interview, mainly because we were available, cheap and could start once the costumes were ready.
I asked the owner of the bar why it was named Crocs. I discovered it was because of the alligator that lived in a glassed off area in the corner. Surely it should have been called Allis or Gators but he wasn’t’ a friendly looking chap to have that conversation with which I guess you could work out by the fact he kept an Alligator in his wrongly named bar.
I wandered over to take a look at the reptile and asked the bar owner if he was pulling my leg as there was nothing to be seen. He popped over for a gander and shouted the words that still haunt me. “It’s escaped. Again.”
I wondered how big this future handbag was and from the corner of my eye I found out. It was two feet long, the scariest thing I’d ever seen and it was quick. It ran towards me and like the man I wasn’t, I let out a scream. If there was a glass of blood my howl would have curdled it.
I jumped up on bar stool. I wasn’t the only one who watched Tom and Jerry cartoons as a child as looking around the room the 5 other patrons had followed my lead.
We looked at each other in terror. We were standing with our heads closer to the ceiling than is comfortable, petrified while a pre historic creature ran about the place looking for freedom.
I’d like to say that we wrestled the creature like Jonny Weissmuller and returned it to its clearly faulty designated area. We didn’t. We stayed standing on the bar stools until the bar owners wife returned. This woman had the courage of a lion because she walked in, looked at us, laughed, saw the killer creature and just threw her coat over its head, scooped it up and put it back in its home.
I never did become a care bare. The costume was too big for me. I ended up working for a drag queen in a restaurant then coming home once I had enough money.
I still shudder at the sight of Alligators, Crocodiles and ceilings
Picture: Me trying to overcome my fear
Friday, 27 September 2019
Reading time 3 minute 04 seconds
I burp, I fart. I’m a real woman – Kate Winslet
Once on a plane during a skydiving lesson a young lady taught me that to Skydive well you must be relaxed. She suggested that whilst in freefall I should try and fart. The air pressure fluctuates which helps flatulence so it’s always possible. If you can concentrate on letting one go it means your mind is in a good calm place which is important while plummeting to earth.
That day there were 4 experienced skydivers in the plane plus me and my instructor Billy. As we climbed to our 12,000 foot jumping altitude I must have looked nervous because someone pointed to my chest and said what’s that? I looked down and her finger came up and flicked my nose. Everybody laughed and someone let out quite a loud fart. This increased our giggles and then everyone blew off together. We must have all been very, very relaxed.
I then did what everyone does after the bottom breathes. I discreetly sniffed. I was surprised to smell petrol. Should I be worried? Maybe I had hypoxia oxygen starvation and was hallucinating. I had another sniff. It wasn’t petrol, it was aviation fuel which smells more exciting.
When you walk off a plane onto the tarmac that’s what you can smell. It’s richer yet cheaper.
I turned to Billy and explained I must have drank too much last night as I was emitting aviation fuel from my behind.
He laughed and eventually sniffed. Curiosity gets to everyone.
Billy then looked worried and informed the pilot who also had a sniff.
Our pilot was the epitome of calm. He took a moment then announced that we were going down and all of those who needed to leave the plane should do so which our skydiving buddies promptly did.
Myself and Billy were to be the last out and as it came our turn to jump I was instructed to sit down as we would not be leaving. He explained that as I was only a student Skydiver we we’re not at a legal altitude for me to jump. I looked around for the sky police but there were only three of us left on the potential fireball.
The pilot switched off the engines and that was it.
I was told to rest my head between my legs and kiss my arse goodbye. Billy was making jokes. I was in a plane that was plummeting to earth and could be a potential bar b que and my friend, instructor, skydive mentor was making jokes. He clearly wasn’t the cool guy I thought, he was a nut job.
We were unnecessarily going down with the plane.
I wasn’t scared, who had time for that stupid emotion. I was angry.
Billy was smiling. The pilot was laughing. They were both nut jobs. Our sky coffin was no longer flying it was falling, all be it a little gracefully thanks to the skills of the soon to be deceased pilot. They were both very calm so I decided that if I can’t beat them, which I really wanted to do, then I’d have to join them. I didn’t prey, I didn’t cry, I did nothing. I accepted my fate. Those minutes before I became burnt toast were some of the longest of my life. It was so quiet.
The pilot broke the silence when he shouted to brace for impact. Billy put his hand on my head and pushed it down between my knees. I could still smell the fuel and my fart. I let out another but I don’t think it was one of the relaxed ones.
Then we touched down. It was so gentle and the plane just rolled to a stop.
I then heard Billy shout RUN MATTY!
I bundled myself out the plane with the other two and we ran so fast we would have overtaken Usain Bolt. I’d like to say the plane exploded in a fireball just for the excitement but it didn’t. Nothing happened. It was a huge anti-climax. The plane was fixed we jumped from it that afternoon.
Later I realised that I was the student who was not allowed to jump yet Billy could have left with the more experienced skydivers and decided to stay with me. I asked him why he did this and was told that you’ve got to die sometime and he didn’t want me to be alone. I Loved that guy. He is so cool. He’s still a nut job to stay, a selfless, kind adorable nut job.
I now fart on every plane I’m on just to remind myself to relax and to check for fuel leaks, well that’s my excuse. What’s yours?
Picture: Me in my office.
Friday, 20 September 2019
Reading time 2 minute 60 seconds
Radio someone still loves you – Queen
Every week I write these stories of my life to overcome my shyness on social media. This is number 90. You know that because it says so above.
A good friend sent me details of an audition for local radio. The criteria for entry specified I must be able to tell a story for two minutes. I read that a few times before saying to myself that I have no stories. Those words left my mouth, then I wondered what I’d write about for Week 90.
Once I’d realised that I was a buffoon I wondered about the 2 minutes story I would tell at my audition. Here is what I have so far. I’ve gone old school and I’m going to list my CV.
I’d like some feedback from you lovely Facebook Folk on what else I should or shouldn’t say;
• Hello, I’m Mat Wills
• I publish extracts of my life weekly on Facebook for the last 90 continuous weeks read by hundreds of very kind people [that’s you, thank you!]
• I destroyed my dad’s kitchen with a chip pan fire
• I was a bellboy in a posh London hotel. I got drunk with arms dealers, failed to recognise Gary Lineker and I once almost stole £325,000. Twice
• I’ve worked the Black Forest as a kitchen porter where I killed fish, chopped up Deer and destabilised the Germany economy which may or may not have helped bring down the Berlin wall
• I’ve been hit and maimed by a car, a cyclist and a motorbike in three separate road accidents
• I maimed the author Terry Pratchet
• While working in investment banking I mistakenly deleted all their data and may have assisted in a financial crash due to my incompetence in IT systems
• I drank and smoked heavily for over 20 years. Memories of this are slowly returning and I’m starting to write about them
• I once travelled to Australia for the weekend
• I ‘ve travelled the world, which is really just a global pub crawl
• I became a skydiver which did not end well and was my solo Edinburgh 2019 Fringe show Skydive to Stand up
• I tried stand-up comedy
• I had what is considered to be the most unsuccessful internet podcast of all time for two years
• I’ve been in Love with 5 incredibly patient, clever, funny, amazing women
• I had an internet radio show for two years.
• If I get this job feel free to fire me around the two year mark
• I quit stand-up comedy
• I had both my hips replaced
• I retried stand-up comedy
• I re quit stand-up comedy
• I re retried stand-up comedy
• I went drinking in Bangkok and came too in Australia with body piercings and holes in my memory
• I’ve been chased by a crocodile, or maybe an alligator.
• I helped create a successful Edinburgh Fringe compilation show which is still running to this day
• I worked in a Children’s improvisation theatre show
• I went on a silent retreat
• I upset Damon Albarn and we haven’t spoken since, Dawn French and Jenifer Saunders are also not fans of mine
• I cycle, I run
• I’ve squished my left testicle which required surgery
• I eat ice cream every day
• I’ve never been to me
• I Love two cats
• My Name is Mat Wills
Have I missed anything?
Direct message me feedback or write it below. I like to know what I’ve done well and what I could improve upon.
Be kind to each other before you press the Share
Picture: Waving my hands in the air like I just don’t care
Friday, 13 September 2019
Reading time 1 minute 19 second
Don’t give up – Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush
I’ve been trying to make people laugh for quite some time now. A good analogy of this that I use often would be that if I was a child and you were my parents we’d have visited the doctor on more than one occasion to find out exactly what is wrong and why was I not keeping up with the other kids.
I performed at a gig on Monday and really enjoyed it. The audience laughed. My stuff was OK but I didn’t really sell it and I didn’t connect to the audience or my material or even to the laughter. I knew what I did wrong and why. It was a valuable lesson. Another one learned the hard way at the coal of face.
An audience member tapped me on the shoulder at the end of the night and said they thought I was an excellent story teller. I was grateful for their thanks. I really was. What a lovely thing to do. Compliment another human being. I’d rather they say I was very funny but I hadn’t earned that.
Then they proceeded to tell me that they believed storytelling was a real art and I was their favourite comedian of the night. I again pointed out how kind they were to say this. I may have even blushed. It was a lovely gesture for them to take the time to say this.
The conversation ended when they announced that I shouldn’t quit. Even though lots of the other comedians had bigger and much better laughs that shouldn’t put me off.
This threw me. They had turned a compliment into a conundrum in my head. Did I look like I wanted to give up? What about my face said this? Did my demeanour express this? I didn’t want to quit until this was announced, was my subconscious considering this? When would it let me know?
They continued. Quitting should be the last thing from my mind. Lots of people had to go through bad gigs and you really were not that bad.
The audience member had turned. I was their favourite a moment ago. They then reiterated three more times so I was sure their point was understood. I was to continue. Don’t’ worry about not making people belly laugh. That might come in time. Just carry on.
I gigged last night. It went OK. As I left the stage I grabbed my coat and left the building just in case someone else wanted to compliment me.
Picture: Me last night gigging by the seaside. What a beautiful country to live in!