One Man’s Treasure

I worked in a pawn shop for a couple of months. It was grim. My boss was an utter wanker, the days were long and tedious, and there was a constant stream of depressed looking “customers”.

The boss would buy stuff off people who were in desperate need of some cash, and if they didn’t buy it back within a month he would sell it on, making a profit.

We took a lot of stuff and most was generic stuff that nobody could form sentimental attachments with- TVs, kitchen appliances and so on. 

Others were a bit more personal and therefore more depressing. It’s hard not to be moved by the fact someone had to pawn their kid’s bike or their engagement ring just for some quick cash.

I found musical instruments fitted into this category. An untouched, unplayed guitar or keyboard has a forlorn air about them. They hint at potential unrealised or a dreams abandoned. Someone bought that guitar with aspirations and ambition, but those were abandoned because they were short on rent or needed to buy food. 

The guitars didn’t get plucked. Nobody shredded a mind blowing solo on them. They didn’t even gently weep. They just stood there, silent and untouched until the boss nagged at us to clean them.

Of course, they would get sold on. There was always some new dreamer who’d stroll in and rescue them, giving them another chance at musical glory.

But I saw one recently that I doubt will shift. I’d strolled into a shop in Barry for a new old game to replace FIFA as my obsession. About to leave I looked at a wall of guitars.

One stood out. It was unique to say the least.

Good sticker positioning.

It was so different and individual, and delightfully tacky.

MWF disagrees, seeing it as awful whereas I think that it’s one of those occasions where some thing’s badness is the charm. 

I quickly formed an image of the previous owner. I imagined that they were into ’80s and ’70s rock in a big way. This had probably played a Scorpions song or two, or some Van Halen riffs.

I was surprised that the store had bought it, unless they thought the guy (99% sure it would be a guy) would come back for it. They can’t have expected to sell it on.

I mean, it’s so different that the chance of finding someone else who will pick this one is slim. Tastes differ and I imagine this wouldn’t be to everyone’s.

A kid wanting to be the new Ed Sheeran won’t want something like that. A guy who plays in a wedding band will pass it over. No, this is an instrument which will only appeal to a select few. 

I went back in a short while later, and it’s still there. Part of me wants to keep going in to check on it. I imagine it will be there for a while until another hair metal fan wanders in and spots it.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 


Chrises on Infinite Earths 

“What if…?”

Those two words can drag you right down the rabbit hole. You think about how things might have played out differently, chances missed and roads not taken. 

Of course, it’s all pointless. Any science fiction fan knows that one slight change can create a whole parallel world. 

Given a time machine and the chance to do things over would I, knowing it risked what I have now?

My life isn’t perfect, and there are things I’d change but for the most part I’m happy. I’m marrying a fantastic woman later this year and am relatively healthy. Who knows what altering something I did might do?

Let’s say I went back and worked harder in uni the first time, actively pursued a writing career and became a writer for real. Read by thousands, not just whatever schmucks stumble across my blog. In some alternate world I might be their version of Hunter S. Thompson or Norman Mailer.

But without the winding, unplanned path I’ve taken the past decade I wouldn’t have wound up trying to be a nurse. I wouldn’t have met MWF and wouldn’t be sat in our house, our cat dozing on my lap, writing this. I might be sat lonely in some flash flat, or dating someone I don’t love. I could be divorced. I could be dead.

That’s the scary thing about the whole alternate reality thing. Sure, there are infinite possibilities of where your life has taken you but there are millions of universes where your story already finished. Or never even began. 

Worlds where your mum and dad never met because some minor event went a different way earlier on. And the whole thing just expands to mind bending proportions. The fact that it’s you reading this is a result of thousands of years of things going a certain way, and that one tiny bump might have meant it didn’t happen.

Hell, a chromosome either way and you’d be a different gender.

It’s the kind of thing that starts to mess you up when you think about it. When you realise just how close you’ve come to having a different life. The whole thing is an exercise in wishful thinking, you wonder about how you could have done stuff right and been better off, but the fact is at a certain point you’d have stopped being you. 

Our experiences are what shapes us, I am who I am because of the mistakes and failures along the way as much as my wins. I’ve learnt and grown because of things which have hurt me or been difficult, and if I had a smoother road I might have developed in a different way. And the fact is, while I know there are parts I could improve, for the most part, I like who I am today.

I may not have the job I want, but in the world where I played for Wales or became a superhero I might have lost out on the stuff I do have.

So why torture myself with what if questions? I should just appreciate the good that I have in my life, and work to change the parts I don’t like. 

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Fat Boy on a Diet: Gain and Pain

Yesterday evening MWF and I went and joined Chub Club, as both of us are wanting to get a bit healthier and lose some weight before our wedding which is now less than nine months away (eek!). 

I haven’t weighed myself in a while and wasn’t stupid, I suspected that I’d gained weight. But I was thinking that I’d land somewhere between my starting weight last year and the lowest I got to. I figured that 2016 was going to be a case of “two steps forward, one step back”.

Unfortunately this was not the case. In the first quarter of last year I had done pretty good but after stopping Chub Club my drive to lose weight veered off a cliff. Last night I found out I had regained all the weight I had lost, with an extra 2lbs on top. I am heavier now than I was a year ago. In fact this might be the heaviest I’ve ever been.

There were contributing factors, but ultimately the buck stops with me. I got lazy, greedy and made stupid decisions. I chose takeaways when I should have made something healthier. I could have gone easier on the chocolates and sweets, and I could have shown a lot more self control.

So, because I am a greedy fool I have left myself a mountain to climb and less than nine months to do it in. The fridge is now filled with fruit and salads, I’ve googled local gyms, chocolate and desserts are a thing of the past.

Even my beloved Lattes aren’t safe, becoming a treat and not my standard order. I’m going to be drinking black coffee again. Dark and bitter days lie ahead, but it’ll be worth it.

The only plus point is that Chub Club insists on going around the group with everyone sharing how they’ve done. Just watching made me uncomfortable so I definitely don’t want to be sitting there telling everyone that I’ve gained weight.

Eat healthy. Exercise more. Sounds simple, right? Let’s see how it goes.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


2017 Resolutions

That time of year again.

1. Lose Weight

This was a resolution last year and started well but fell off in the second half of the year. Hopefully, with MWF and I now having our own place this will be easier to stick to now.

Also going into 2017 I have more drive to lose weight as there will be wedding and honeymoon photos which I’d like to be able to look at without hating how I look.

I’ve also decided that as part of this I’m going to blog about it more often even when things aren’t going well. Sharing it online will hopefully motivate me to do well, so if I go a few weeks without writing about it feel free to remind me in the comments.
2. Be Nicer

I could stand to be kinder and more patient, and make more of an effort with people.

3. Stop Just Daydreaming and Actually Follow Through on Stuff

From the bucket list to my writing, I’ve always got half baked plans I’m my head but I need to knuckle down and work to achieve them. Thankfully I already have 1 and 1/7 bucket list items planned, butI want to do more.

I need to actually try and not just spend ages fantasising.

4. Broaden My Reading

This year I read a lot of zombie, superhero and Ed McBain books and while I enjoyed them and will read more, I feel I should try and add a bit of variety.


5. Remember the Good Stuff

Going to make sure I take time to appreciate the good stuff and might even keep a list.

Only five this year, but hopefully ones I can achieve. Keep reading to find out how I do.

Anyway, if you have any words of encouragement or resolutions of your own let me know in the comments. Happy New Year! BETEO.


A belated thank you to Dr Heimlech

This weekend saw the passing of Dr Henry Heimlich, famous for his life saving technique. I’m not going to lie reading his brief obit from the Beeb there were two things that hit me (a) surprise, as I thought he was already dead and (b) shock, as I’d assumed the manoeuvre had been around a lot longer.

1974?! It took us longer to work out how to stop someone choking than it did to get to the moon! 

The manoeuvre being used by Mrs Doubtfire

Anyway, I felt bad that he had only just died as I should have probably written and thanked him because without the good doctor’s invention I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Back in the early nineties I was on the yard at primary school eating an aniseed ball and reenacting the death of a minor film character when the sweet lodged itself in my throat and began to choke. Panic rose in my friends and I but we hurried inside and found a dinner lady.

They may have almost killed me but I am now massively craving some

The dinner lady, her name sadly forgotten, kept a cool head and several abdominal thrusts (as the manoeuvre is known as by many) later the red sweet hurled from my mouth, skittering across the school corridor.
So, thank you anonymous dinner lady and Doctor Heimlich, for saving my life and stopping me from being a playground legend and warning against sweets.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Annoyed (5)

The other day I was seriously annoyed at work. In the morning I’d caught the bus in and grabbed a copy of the Metro thinking that the Rush Hour Crush, sudokus and crossword would help pass the time. 

It tends to be quite quiet at the start of the shift so I settled in with a cup of tea and started the crossword, having secured one of the few pens that were floating around. 

A few clues in I had to go do something, and set my paper down. A few minutes later having done whatever it was I returned and my paper was gone. I had a quick look about and it was nowhere to be seen. Not in the staff room, not in the office, not moved to somewhere else.
I was tamping.

The worst part was I knew I couldn’t go around raising a fuss because (a) I’ve been there a fortnight, so still need to hide my true self from my co-workers and (b) it’s the Metro I hadn’t bought it. I’d picked it up on the bus, and the whole way the paper makes it’s cash is that it gets picked up and passed on. You see a copy lying around and unless it’s right next to someone it’s fair game.

But still! It had a half done crossword in! Clearly I wasn’t done with it. For the rest of the day I was keeping a vague eye out for it but no joy.

It was seriously infuriating because it deprived me of entertainment and the satisfaction of completing it.

This is the kind of unfinished business which means had I died Thursday my ghost would have haunted work until it could finish the crossword and gain peace.

I was denied my triumph, my well earned joy at a puzzle solved. It’s not often I find myself feeling like Sherlock Holmes, especially since I gave up the morphine,  but when I’ve started working something out I get a little bit obsessed and want to see it through.

Being deprived of this choice was not a good conclusion and left me deeply unsatisfied, in the same way if someone had stolen the dancing men before Holmes had worked out what they meant.

It also left me annoyed with my new co-workers, all of whom I now viewed with suspicion, unable to confirm which one had stolen my paper.

What kind of place have I started to work in? What kind of monsters am I working with, who throws out someone’s incomplete puzzle, it’s just not cricket.
Oh, and the answer to the title clue? “Cross”.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 


Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

I wrote about using the disabled toilets at work to change a little while back and despite my unease have continued to do so. Today, however, the powers that be may have sent a message for me to stop misusing these facilities.

I found today’s shift tougher than normal as I’ve just had a week off, so was out of my work rhythm. Tired all I wanted to do was head home for some cold pizza and The Walking Dead but first I needed a bus and to change clothes. 

Luckily the staff disabled toilet is a lot cleaner than the customer one because it hardly ever gets used. I hastily changed, trying to avoid seeing my reflection in tte mirror and was soon ready to go.

I reached for the handle which was a little loose. I turned it. Nothing.

I jiggled it and tried again.

Still nothing.

Realization hit. 

I was locked in.

I tried fiddling some more, pulling the door as tight as I could, twisting the handle in every possible direction.

After two or three minutes and countless attempts I had to accept defeat.

With embarrassment oozing from every pore I reached up and pulled the distress cord.

A few minutes later I was rescued by a helpful, and clearly amused, security guard. I thanked him and got the hell out of there.

I think tomorrow I’ll just wear my uniform on the bus.

Any thoughts ?  You know what to do. BETEO.


Moving Out

This weekend MWF and I took a big step forward and moved into our first house together. I’ve lived outside my family home before, but this is the first time I’ve lived with a partner and it all feels rather grown up.

We picked up the keys on Saturday and spent the day moving some stuff over. This didn’t take as long as we thought thanks to generous help from some friends and our parents. Sunday was unpacking and with things out of boxes and a few of our things set up it was starting to feel a lot more like our place.

We’re a Disney house.

Still it was half empty and with our new bed arriving on Monday we had to stay at MWF’s mum’s place on Sunday night.

And so I spent yesterday alone in the house for much of the day slowly going stir crazy. After a DVD, numerous matches on Fifa and some reading, I was fed up and would have liked to have been able to leave for a bit.

Making it worse is the fact that my phone signal is erratic and that I suspect my phone is actually trying to mess with me. I’d check signal in a new spot and discover the 4G was working and I had a decent number of bars. Joy!

However, as soon as I tried to do anything it would cut out to absolutely nothing. This happened repeatedly all over the house. So, I have internet and signal unless I want to use them.

Without Twitter and Facebook the time dragged even more. And I had yet to set up the TV license so I couldn’t even have daytime TV for diversion lest the dreaded License Van find me.

Not sure if this ad is a bluff or an Orwellian nightmare

The wifi won’t be connected for another fortnight so I feel all cut off from the outside world and apologise if this blog becomes more sporadic, as I’m stuck using my phone, which I hate.

Anyway, there are a few minor teething problems with the house-

First, and most pressingly, the toilet is broken. A plumber is expected today. 

As he was on Saturday. 

And yesterday. 

To be fair he did turn up yesterday afternoon. 

After we rang and complained to the letting agents.

With no toilet I am foregoing breakfast and painfully aware that we are now on a clock. I pray that the plumber appears soon as eventually the call of nature must be answered. 
It’s a simple fix, replacing one part, so hopefully all will be sorted by this afternoon and I can be relieved.

The second problem is that we don’t have a sofa until next week. The plan was to use bean bags, blankets and cushions for the moment, but one day on the bean bag left my back a wreck and I was stiff and achy all evening. This means I either have to find an armchair for a few days (tricky enough without the fickle internet) or stay in bed all the time. 

I suppose as we need a bed for the spare room I could just buy a mattress and set up a day bed on the living room floor? At least I could watch TV then. I sorted the license, so you can call off the dogs, TV License Patrol.

The only other hitch has been Midnight, who has been a little hesitant and nervous in her new home. While she has explored a bit more now she legged it for higher ground and set up camp on our bed yesterday evening.

Queen of the Castle

She cowered under the blankets and it took a lot of cooing and fussing to get her to come out. She seems better this morning but she spent much of the night sleeping on me, which isn’t ideal for any of us.

Hopefully she can improve today and won’t be too bad tomorrow as she will be left alone for the morning as MWF and I will be at work. I just hope I don’t return to a wrecked house. 

These minor quibbles aside, I’m very happy with the place and it’s nice to have our own space for our little family. It already feels like ours and I’m sure with more of our things out and the problems sorted it will feel like home.

Anyway, must dash as need to distract myself from my complaining stomach. 

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 


Ch-ch-changing: Fear and Loathing in the Disabled Toilets

I balanced on one leg like an overweight, graceless flamingo. I managed to get my leg free of my trousers and placed it on my empty trainer. 

This had to be one of the most awkward changes in my life. I felt uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons. 

Firstly, there was the smell, which was rather unpleasant. It was a toilet, and recently used, and being a toilet I didn’t want to touch anything more than I had to. I especially didn’t want to put my socks on the floor. If you’ve ever stood in anything wet wearing socks you’ll know it’s a deeply unpleasant experience. Hence the drunk flamingo bit.

The other reason I felt awkward was because it was a disabled toilet and I felt a bit of a heel for possibly depriving someone of the only toilet accessible to them. I prayed to the gods that nobody was waiting outside.

Luckily there wasn’t and completely changed I left and headed for the bus home.

So why was I changing in a toilet?

Well, I’d finished work and it being a warm day was a little sweaty. My uniform is uncomfortable, and I didn’t fancy wearing it on a warm, full bus. But this meant finding somewhere to change. 

We have a staff changing room but it has zero cover. No cubicles or corners. 

You have to change right out in the open. This means waiting until it’s empty and praying that nobody comes in because as soon as the door opens they’ll see you. 

Just writing that makes me feel on edge.

I haven’t had to change in a public changing room for years. Not since school. And if I can avoid it for another 15 years I’ll be happy. I have no desire for anyone except for MWF to see me half naked. And of course that won’t be until after our wedding.

But anyone else? The idea makes me nervous.

I’ve been this way since primary. When I was in year six we used to have swimming once a week. I can distinctly remember there was a time when changing after didn’t bother me. We were all 10-11 so it was before any adolescent insecurity crept in.

I can remember goofing off. Wrapping a towel around my head and doing an impression of Whigfield, who’s “Saturday Night” a year or so earlier. 

Whigfield

It got some laughs and I kept doing it for a few weeks.

Now I was a chunky kid. I had what we called “puppy fat” and I think part of me honestly thought that it would all fall off during my teens and I’d emerge like a ripped butterfly, able to realise my dream of playing for Wales and Swansea.

Of course, this didn’t happy and my puppy fat grew into full grown adult St Bernard fat.

But back in the mid nineties none of this bothered me. I was chunky bit didn’t think much about it. 

Until it was pointed out by some of my schoolmates. And not politely. It went on for a few weeks, and I came to dread those swimming days. I was a crap swimmer anyway, so it wasn’t like it was massively fun to begin with. But being called names afterwards soured it even more.

It got worse in secondary school and all the enjoyment I’d got playing football in primary evaporated. I started “forgetting” my kit on a regular basis, and PE became my least favourite lesson. I wasn’t the only chunky kid. Or the chunkiest, but when I did have to change I just did it quickly, quietly and as closely to the corner as I could.

To be fair I never got any grief at comp. Well, aside from once when two kids who I did PE with tried having a go. For sports two classes were teamed up and my class was put with one of the classes that was for less academic kids. These two in particular were knuckle dragging morons of the lowest order. Think Crabbe and Goyle but without the charisma.

Now one of them was about the same size as me, so when they had a go bout my belly and budding mannaries I was surprised. I then told him that it was a bit rich as he wasn’t exactly slim and to get out of my way, as I needed to get to English and I’m sure their teacher had set up some colouring in for them to do.

Being a gobby, sarky git paid off and the surprise of me actually firing back meant they didn’t bother me again. 

But even without outside influence my insecurities over changing grew like an unattended plant that soon takes over everything.

I was starting to get interested in girls, and starting to realise this was a one way street. And that I didn’t look a thing like the slim, toned celebrities they fancied.

On a family holiday to Jersey I wrecked a beloved Superman shirt leaving it a weird purple-pink colour because I refused to swim in the pool shirtless. 

I’m more comfortable with myself in a lot of ways. I voice my opinions, speak out for myself and don’t worry about my looks that much. But hopping about in that disabled toilet I realised that I still have those old hang ups.

I need to get better. In Sri Lanka I sweltered in the sun, only taking off my shirt when I knew nobody was about and keeping it within reach at all times. I went in the sea a couple of times, running in and out to avoid being spotted.

I haven’t swam in years but with Florida coming next year I’d like to be a bit more comfortable, so that even if I can’t quite summon the courage to take my shirt off I can at least go in the pool and risk a wet T-shirt moment. If I want to cross “swim with dolphins” off the bucket list I need to do something.

Hopefully the weight loss (which has stalled of late) will help and maybe getting a bit fitter again will make me feel more positive too.

I really appreciate and respect all those who promote body confidence and self love, but when it comes to myself I’m not quite there. I would love to be able to strut down a beach or go swimming without feeling self conscious and hating how I look, worrying what people think. I’d love to be comfortable and confident.

I’ve gotten better, and don’t worry about looking stupid as much. I’ve quit running from cameras too. Hell, I’ve even started putting selfies on Instagram.

My mug

But I still need to get to the stage where I don’t look in the mirror and hate what I see. And where I can change clothes without having to find the most secluded spot I can. It would just make my life a lot easier and happier if I could just do my changing in a room where I wasn’t worried about touching anything.
Sorry, this kind of turned into a ramble.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Groom With a View #2: Breaking With Traditions

Pizza. Who doesn’t like pizza. The beauty of pizza is that you can choose your own toppings. Regardless of what you add or subtract it is still a pizza.

But imagine if people were annoyed or disappointed with what you picked on your pizza. Or told you that you should stick something on it despite you not liking it. 

That’s what wedding traditions are like. They are the extras you add to the base, and you can pick and choose which ones you have. And which you decide to leave out.

But that doesn’t mean people won’t complain about your choices, like a friend who turns up their nose at your decision to have olives. 

One tradition that MWF nixed early on is the bouquet toss. Which I definitely agree with.

It’s a tradition that seems old fashioned and a little sexist, a throwback to a time when getting married was viewed as a woman’s goal in life. The undignified scrapping to be next down the aisle just seems stupid.
And the male equivalent, throwing the garter just seems creepy and embarrassing for everyone. 

I get why traditions are a big deal, it’s a sense of culture and continuity, a connection to the past and the familiarity is comforting. And I even like some of them, which is why we’re keeping some for our wedding. However, I don’t think you should just blindly follow a routine because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

Change is good. And even better is doing what you want.

So, wear a red dress, have a best woman, forego the first dance or have a themed ceremony. 

It’s your wedding day, so you should do what makes you happy, not what you’re told to do because it’s the done thing.
Who knows? You might start a new tradition.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.