Found: one disposable camera.

Whilst in one of my rigorous cleaning sessions through my flat recently I found a disposable camera It had five photos remaining on it. I couldn’t remember exactly when I had last used a disposable but decided it was somewhere around 2010/11 and it should really be processed. Today I went to my local photo shop, where my brother’s girlfriend happens to work, and got a glimpse into my own past. It was like the Blue Peter Time Capsule, except better, because I was in it.

Below are the photos I discovered. There are festivals and holidays, ex-girlfriends and drunken times. It has made me feel very nostalgic.

99270036

 

This photo was taken in the early hours of the morning when planking was all anyone was talking about.

99270035

99270034

I do not recognise either of these girls.

 

99270033

99270032

99270031

99270030

99270029

99270028

99270027

99270026

99270025

99270024

99270023

99270022

99270021

 

I believe these are all at Glastonbury.

 

99270016

 

This is in Brighton. My hair is so big because it is full of secrets.

99270009

 

Pere Le Chaise, Paris.

 

99270008

Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

 

99270004

99270001

 

Alex’s van. 23.11.14

 

6 Further Things I Have Learnt Since Living Alone.

This week represents six months since I moved into my first flat on my own. A lot of changes have taken place in that time and I’m attempting to constantly remind myself of how lucky I am. There are a number of lessons I have learnt since I moved out which were earlier documented here and here but on the six month anniversary of my freedom, I felt it was only fair to drop six more fact-bombs from the hull of my brain.

1. Heat doesn’t grow on trees.
It’s really fucking cold in here. The joyous days of walking about all day in my birthday suit at the disgust of the neighbours as I always seemed to be picking things up off the floor is over. I’m writing this post from safely within the high-tog confines of my duvet. There’s no way I’m going out there. There’s wolves and shit.
My heating bills haven’t been too bad but I can definitely understand why we lose so many of our senior citizens in the winter months.
It also doesn’t help that my windows are made of PVA glue and good intentions. It’s alright, I’ve got a window man coming round this week.

2. You don’t need human interaction when you have BBC iPlayer.
There’s something incredibly sad about sitting and staring at the idiot box for hours but when there is so much choice of immersive shit to lose yourself to, it becomes understandable. I’ve worked my way through all of Doctor Who, Sonic Highways and pretty much anything to do with music that can be slammed into their category boxes. I find myself talking to Capaldi as he winds his way through jungles of Central London or the end of the universe or whatever. It’s great. Who needs people?

3. Moving a bookshelf can completely change your perspective on shit.
Last weekend I moved a bookshelf. It completely changed my perspective on shit. I’m always going on about only keeping the things that either serve a purpose or bring me pleasure but I’m constantly coming up against these pockets of resistance. I decided to move the thin bookshelf in the corner of my lounge to my bedroom, partly so I had more space in the lounge but mostly so I had better access to wood during the real winter months when the freeze came. As I was clearing off the bookshelf I realised that I didn’t want to put about 80% of it back on, so I didn’t. I gave it to charity or chucked it and I’m left with a bookshelf which just shows off the nice things I do have; photographs with my friends and family, my typewriter, a ukulele. It’s much better.

4. Lightbulbs always need replacing.
These guys. These fucking guys. I have those little halogen circular jobbies through most of the flat. There are seven in total. The life expectancy of these bulbs is less than that of a fruitfly. I feel like I’m playing a twisted version of Whack-A-Mole for the time I spend staring up at the ceiling and trying to get the bayonet fitting to sit correctly. That’s something they don’t tell you about moving out or living alone, lightbulbs are bullshit. Luckily, Amazon will deliver a box of ten next day delivery so you don’t even have to go to the coronership, you can just sit in the dark and wait with a grin on your face.

5. Food and food shopping may become a chore.
I haven’t been food shopping in two weeks. I don’t know if that’s a normal amount of time to not go food shopping for but it seems excessive. My cupboards are essentially bare, especially the snack cupboard. The problem is that it becomes very difficult to be inspired when you don’t have anyone to do it for. Should I be doing it for myself? I will eat like a slob and have no concerns over my appearance. As long as when I leave the shirt I’ve got quite a nice shirt on then I consider myself to be a success. Five portions of fruit and veg a day? Not when Sainsburys is ten minutes away and I can chew on this pencil.

6. Things that initially seem a bargain are now broken.
I bought a kettle when I moved in. That’s a normal thing to happen. It exploded this morning and smelt like bacon crisps. I remember thinking that it would do for the time being. I didn’t realise how gutting it would be to see it go. I blame myself. I hadn’t been paying it the same attention. It seemed to be developing a crust. The lesson here is that if you act like a cheap bastard you can expect the shitty portion. I’m realising that now as I put a saucepan of water on the stove to make myself a tea.

Photo on 11-10-2014 at 00.27 #3

Handle with care.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my mum. She works at a local primary school and had experienced an unusual situation where she had been able to draw upon my experiences to assist a young man who was struggling with an issue.

This particularly boy had just found out that he hadn’t got a place at his first choice of school following the release of the results of his 11+ examinations. Understandably he was upset about this and it left him unsure on exactly what he would do.
It bothers me that at ten or eleven years old we are forcing kids into these high-pressured situations and putting so much fear into them that it matters. That is what made what my mother said to him all the more remarkable. She explained to this boy that sometimes things don’t go entirely to plan but that you can always find another way of dealing with them and that these things can work out. She told him that people fail their 11+ but can still go on to amazing things. They end up being a big fish in a small pond. They do law degrees and walk deserts and publish books. She was talking about me.

I was surprised how emotional the conversation made me feel. I’ve taken a number of knocks since I was told I wouldn’t be going to whichever of the Grammar schools it was I was planning on attending. I thought about what she had said for a number of days and then suggested the idea of sending him a copy of one of my books to possibly inspire him.
I’m suddenly reminded of the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to perform a completely selfless act. That’s what I thought I was doing initially but I soon discovered, just like Miss Buffet, that there is no such thing. I wrote a letter to this boy to accompany the book and soon realised I was actually covering off something I had been holding onto for nearly twenty years. The response is as follows. Whether I get the go ahead to send it to him and if he ever becomes aware of how what he is going through reminds me of how important personal development is…

 

Dear X

I understand you recently found out you didn’t get the school you wanted to following your 11+ exams.

When Ms (or as I call her, Mum) told me about it I remembered how upset I was when I found out I didn’t get into the school I wanted to. I know this was about seventeen years ago but the feeling remains the same whenever I find out I didn’t get something I wanted.

I just wanted to write you a little note which I am hoping you can use as a reminder when these things happen in the future. You will unfortunately find that you can’t always get what you want, that there will be things that stand in your way but the things that bother you today, or for this week certainly won’t be bothering you in a month or in a year. There will be some things that will continue to bother you like girls and money, but we need both of them.

I guess what I am trying to say is that no matter what happens, things will always work out and you can find anything you want and get by any of those obstacles. I didn’t get into the school I wanted when I was your age but I went to another school where I made friends with the best friends I have ever had, I worked very hard to prove to everyone and to myself that I could do it and I did well in my exams. I went to college and I went to university where I had some of the most amazing experiences of my life so far.

I became a writer which not only involves a lot of hard work but also a lot of people telling you that you aren’t going to be able to do what you want to do. There is always a way of doing what you want.

Ms told me that you might be interested in reading some of my work. While a lot of it contains content that you might still be a little young for, I have enclosed a copy of my book Yallah! which is about when I travelled to the Sahara desert in Africa last year.
Be safe

Paul

 

Peru: a review.

It has been a week since I got back from Peru.

IMG_0725

It feels like I never went away but it also feels as if I was there for a lot longer than the week I was allowed. It was one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited, the locals were engaging and incredible, the food was delicious (if not slightly disconcerting at times) and I have met people that I will never forget and who I feel developed for knowing. It was really hard at times, maybe harder than the Sahara, not harder, but different.
I suffered a bout of sickness during the hike, which peaked on the second day, the toughest of the four days we were “out in the shit”. Climbing to 4,200 feet with nothing to run on but a Mars bar was a challenge but the sense of achievement I got at the top was worth it. There are more stories and more adventures and they will pour out in time. While I’m on the subject, if you visit, try the roasted guinea pig, it’s delicious.

I owe a debt of thanks to Tom and Hera’a, to Tariq, Elizabeth and everyone else at Action Challenge, to Dr Bob and Dr Poo, to Eddie and the other guides, to the porters and the cooks and once more to the wonderful green team.

I’m not going to write a blow-by-blow account of what went down because I am saving it for the book I am currently writing as part of NaNoWriMo. It will be a follow up to Yallah! Repeated characters and general thoughts and feelings as I get to travel around the globe and see and do these wonderful things with these incredible people.
While I’m on the subject of Yallah! I would like to thank everyone who has downloaded it. During the five days that it was free for the Kindle it got to the number 1 spot in its category which is a first for me. Although The Stamp Collective  and Where Did All The Money Go? were well received, they never got to the coveted number one spot. That may have been more to do with the categories they were under but I was completely enthralled and overwhelmed to see it rise through the ranks and momentarily peak above Mark Twain.

I love writing and I do it solely for myself but to receive the responses I have recently is humbling and beautiful so I thank you all.

In the mean time, I must get back to Martin Salinger, who is hovering around Heathrow airport worrying that once more, his bag is going to be considered oversized.

 

As with the Sahara I have put together a video of my time in Peru: