Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Crappy Little Day

Well that was a crappy little day.

I woke up late, and tired.  Drinking Red Bull and eating shit food from the off.

I've said it before, but being fat is the one thing guaranteed to make me miserable, and putting on weight when eating healthy and doing some exercise like I did at the weekend has triggered me off on a run of eating lots of shit - approx 4,000 calories a day.  As opposed to 1,500 a day last week when I was happy...or a least content.

So, of course I've put even more weight on and am even more pissed off - 3kg since Sunday.  There is no reversing this any time soon either.  I'm stuck in a bad pattern and it will take a few days to start reversing it.

I just about made it through the day despite being my frustration bubbling under the surface...I did nearly snap at someone at work which would have been terribly unfair of me...then I snapped on the way home with another fucking Metropolitan line delay.

So I bought some wine.

And then I burnt my dinner.  So I cooked twice as many potatoes to make up for it, and to make myself fatter.  Plus had a load of chocolate and will have some more.

And then I had yet more problems trying to set up this website that I am making for someone...who's hosting company is just fucking useless.  But is so frustrating me.  I've wasted hours just trying to install WordPress on a should take 5 minutes.  And this is over the course of two weeks.  I just want to get it finished so I can get the remaining invoice paid.  Not that I am going to be able to spend and enjoy the money as my shares are down.  Way down.

On my birthday they were £500 up.  Now I'm £600 down.  Most of it due to Donald fucking Trump.  Maybe they'll go back up - they have done before, but they've never been this far down and market sentiment seems bad.  The economy really doesn't look rosy.

I will need to recoup my losses somehow, so it may mean having to have a budget of £100 one month, just eat carrots and stuff like that.  No roast dinners.  I am going to have to start cancelling plans soon.  Bang goes the idea of going on holiday.  Not that I have anyone to go with anyway...though I'm kind of used to spending time by myself...I barely even spoke to anyone all Easter weekend.  I spoke to my parents on Friday, but the only other people I spoke to all weekend offered me a receipt.

Also I am fed up of working my arse off and still struggling.  I appreciate that I am not the only one.  I didn't relax properly all weekend as I was worried about the website for the company I work for, given that we've had problems in the week before.  I was technically on call - though escaped until late evening on Monday without having to do anything but testing.

Maybe I need to find some new friends.  But I don't have any time to spend with them anyway, as I need to spend my weekends working to make enough money.  And I don't even bother trying with Tinder any more.

And then I'm nearly 40.  I have no house - never will own a house.  No girlfriend, no wife, no kids, very little pension.  I've barely seen any of the world.

I don't expect sympathy - that would piss me off.  I appreciate that millions, if not billions of people across the world have things harder than me but that just pisses me off more because why can I not be happier?  Why am I not a source of joy?  People used to remark about how happy I was - granted some of them lived in Bracknell.  I don't get that any more.  I don't seem to laugh very often either.

I probably won't sleep well tonight now, and I am not happy about my standard of English throughout this blog post.  It barely flows, the paragraphs are so simple in construction, though I guess it gets to my hidden raw frustrations and emotions more.

Or maybe it is just half a bottle of red wine talking.

There's also a small chance that I may have fucked my liver up and will never be able to drink again.  I cannot see that being the case but it worries me.  As I don't enjoy life enough without alcohol to give it up permanently.  I'm probably worrying about nothing here, but hey.

At the end of the day, to make the English fucking worse, I need to sort my financial situation out.  I feel significantly underpaid, and cannot keep working the longest hours I ever have, plus longest commute that I've ever had, at the lowest wage I've had in 10 years, whilst having to do work on the side at the weekend, and pretending that London is amazing even though I never have the time or money to do anything.  I'm fat, ugly, lonely and skint, I'm fed up of these short but increasingly frequent miserable bouts.  It all kind of swims around in the same dis-virtuous circles, as now I'll be tired tomorrow and repeat the same circle of eating shit food, drinking Red Bull and feeling crap, put more weight on and be more pissed off.  At some point that will break, I'll sort myself out then realise I'm skint and be miserable, then at some point start eating loads of shit again.

I was hoping to have a holiday in June but I guess I'll just be repaying the money I lost on my stupid fucking investment.

At least I'm having a pie tomorrow night.

It seems like I'm always writing about being miserable, but a quick look at my recent posts suggests that isn't the case.  Though I don't actually post everything I write, believe it or not.

I'll post something more cheerful next time.  Sorry.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Detox Is Over

So it finishes.  3 months without alcohol.  Finished already.

I almost feel a little sad about it.  It's like the end of a holiday.  I expected to jump up and down in excitement about the upcoming retoxification, but nah.  I feel very nonplussed about it.

My 3 month detox was on doctor's advice.  There is nothing wrong with my liver per se, but it needed a reduction of the fat content otherwise there was a good chance that there would become a problem.

I've had my blood test today and now await the results.  Hopefully the doctor will say "party on", or words to that effect.  Though the other realistic possibility will be that he says that it hasn't improved as much as he expected and I need another 3 months off...I cannot see that being the case but worth being mentally prepared for.

Going out and not drinking isn't particularly easy, especially in the evening or when there is loud music. For a Sunday roast, which seems to be the majority of my socialising now, I'm not that bothered.  Sure it is nice to have a glass of red with a nice roast, but I can take it or leave it.

I'm also not bothered about having a drink at the end of the working week - I was always quite happy just to go home.  A few years ago I had to have a drink on a Friday.  A few years before that I had to be fucked off my face as soon as humanly possible come the end of the working week (or quite often the Thursday night as I just couldn't wait).

Which shows that I have gone from being pretty needy of alcohol some years ago, to not that bothered now.  At least in terms of need.

But I miss the feeling.  I miss the taste - a good pint of beer tastes so much better than a pint of apple juice, no matter how refreshing apple juice can be on after a really heavy session.

Even more than that, I missed sausage rolls.  And bacon sandwiches.  And chorizo...I could labour the point but I think you understand.  I was also advised to cut down red meat, if possible.  Which I did - bar roast dinners.  And boy, the amount of times, especially at first, when I craved a sausage roll.

Believe it or not, I lost some weight.  Around 6kg from my peak in the new year.  I was aiming for 9kg, but I guess that was quite ambitious.

I did a lot of admin.  Sorting out music, going through piles of paperwork, clearing up old e-mails, fixing things on my blogs and websites that have been on my to-do list for over a year.

I saved money.  Well, I paid off my overspending from December, paid for a holiday that I've agreed to go on but wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise, and bought a new phone outright.

I also got my first full-on website client, and produced a website for him.  Just waiting for his hosting company to pull their fingers out of their backside and fix a technical issue with my client's account and it will be live.

Shit got done these last 3 months.

I was almost exactly as happy.  I keep a count of my happiness rating every day, and averaged 5.003571 for March this year compared to 4.992857 for March last year (when I was drinking).

And I have been told that I look brighter.  I was hoping that I'd feel 21 again, but alas, I don't.  I still get tired at times, especially if I have been consuming caffeine.

So, as it is my first post-detox evening so what am I drinking?

Summer fruits squash.  As normal.

I had a sausage roll for lunch to celebrate, just a cheap Sainsburys one and I cannot say it was that good.  I would have enjoyed a salad more.

And now I have just cooked myself some pork fillet in a BBQ sauce.  It wasn't that special - I overcooked the pork.  I am particularly looking forward to a bacon and egg sandwich, but that can wait until the weekend.

Alcohol can wait too.  I did consider buying some beer for tonight, but I've got loads on at work at the moment, and could do without an unnecessary fuzzy head.

Don't worry, I haven't become a Jehovah's Witness or anything.  I have booked myself a table for a celebratory pie at Piebury Corner.  They serve beer.  Thursday evening after work - you can come if you want.

Normal service then resumes.  Pending doctor's further advice.

And my taking notice of it.

I might do this 3 month detox again one year.  It was alright.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

I Have Joined A Gym

Yes, you read correctly.

I have joined a gym.

I figured that as I am nearly 40, exceptionally unattractive to women and still absolutely desperate to have multiple children - preferably to different women but the same one will do I guess, I should really do some critical analysis of why this is.

The question that I have been asking all year to myself after 1000's of unreciprocated right-swipes is why am I not attractive to women.  I mean, I have a mullet, after all.  And don't forget the shiny green meggings.

So I changed my gender on Tinder to female, and started looking through men's profiles.  And realised that I was clearly missing something.  Pictures of my muscles in very tight t-shirts.

Believe it or not, and I know I wouldn't, but I've had my induction training, paid my £500 annual fee in advance which is just such exceptional value - and I am lifting.  Lifting.  LIFTING I tell you.

Shortly I will be a #properrippedbro

Power to The Winfield.

I shall also be listening to infinite amounts of tech-house going forwards and doing fist-pumps whenever possible.  Yeah, Moorgate station - fist pump time!  No I don't have a Nectar card - fist pump time!  Hull City AFC have conceded another goal - fist pump time.  Yeah!

Right I'm off down the gym again - haven't been for 3 hours.  I shall post some gym-selfies later with my new bro's.  Yeah!  Fist pump, baby.

Anyone got any roids?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Work/Life Balance

As good as everything is at the moment, it would be ideal if I had more time for myself during the week.

I appreciate that people in other vocations sometimes have longer hours, but 9am to 6pm was a bit of a surprise when I started working at Lovespace - I hadn't asked about the hours during interview, it was kind of irrelevant - but they are the longest working hours that I have ever known.

Add on the journey to and from work, which is normally around 1 hour 15 each way - but can easily be more depending on tube trains and Tottenham Hotspurs.

I used to moan when I got home at 6:45pm when I worked in Bracknell and lived in Reading.  Ahhh.

Nowadays from when I get up and start getting ready for work, until when I get home, is close to a 13 hour day.  Don't get me wrong, other people do more, but this is the longest working day that I have ever known.  And then there are the extras like occasionally doing the customer service chat in the evening, sometimes being on Skype in the evening, being available in case something goes wrong with the website and I need to urgently fix it.  It isn't just a 40 hour week.  It feels like a 70 hour week - sometimes the tube journey can be a trauma that feels like a day's work in itself.

I am more used to it now - not completely but at least somewhat.  I struggled at first - partly also due to finding the work difficult - using my brain to code is such a change from not having to use my brain to argue with people that haven't paid their bills.  I think part of the reason that I have put on so much weight is down to being so tired from the long days - and eating more crap, drinking Red Bull, etc (I hear you saying "do more exercise" - but I don't have time - though I probably wouldn't if I did).

Still, I would like more time in my life.  2 hours in the evening to do everything I want to do simply is not enough - eating, cleaning, washing, ironing, blogging, etc.  And I don't function on less than 8 hours sleep so that cannot be negotiated.

Changing jobs is a non-starter.  This is perfect for someone at my level, I do a good job and normally meet fairly high expectations.  I have so much to learn and can do it here.  There is no guarantee that I'd work less hours at other jobs - in fact, one job that I interviewed for and came close to getting involved working well into the evening, apparently.  I could try to get a job nearer where I live...but nah.  I like being in central London.

Other jobs could involve working from home, I guess, but I'm not convinced that is a good enough reason to leave a near-perfect job.  I can work home from currently, occasionally, but anything regular isn't going to happen.  Having a cleaner would help give me more time on a weekend, but I cannot afford one.

The other reason I don't have so much time, of course, is my location.  I could move house.  I don't want to.  I have fairly cheap rent but most importantly, I live by myself.  I live by myself - I have a whole house to myself by some fluke.  Is this worth sacrificing for a shorter commute?

And this is really not helped by the fucking Metropolitan line which has been a disaster since October.  So many complete service failures - I'm delayed by 20+ minutes several times each week (more often in the morning than evening), I had to give up trying to get to work twice a couple of weeks back.  Timing my journey for when there are no signal failures is some form of lottery.

Anyway, moving house is the only real answer to improving my work/life balance.  But I hate moving house and like living on my own.  Moving house in itself takes up much precious time that I don't have, and worse - money that I don't have.  I think I need to think more about this option.  I may well need a spreadsheet.

Maybe there is an end point in 4-5 years time, where I either do a good amount of remote working, or I even move myself to become a full-time freelancer...the requests for work in my spare time are ticking up - I say no to them more than I say yes - partly due to time constraints...surprise surprise.

I knew how difficult this career and life change would be, and it has proven so - yet it remains so worthwhile.

But I just want a bit more of my time back.  Something has to give.  There has to be some form of improvement on my work/life balance this year.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

2018 Goals

I have goals.  I started thinking about them in January and finished some point last month.  In no particular order of priority, bar the top 2.


Lose Weight.  Shock horror, this is here again and my number one goal.  Last year I started at 90kg and aimed to get down to 82kg.  I finished at 96kg.  This year I start at 97kg and want to get down to 85kg.  And next year, no doubt, I will be aiming to get down to 90kg or something fuckwitty like that.

3 Month Detox.  No alcohol and limited red meat for 3 whole months.


Get a match on Tinder.  I last had a match on Tinder in 2016.  I'm not even targeting a message response or even a date - just a match.

Go on one date.  Fuck knows how I'll get said date, but go on one date.  I managed it last year.

Go speed dating or something similar.  Maybe I'll go play Dating Cards of Humanity or something Shoreditch-twatty like that.

Explore London/UK

Go to a new cricket ground.

Explore a UK city.  Spend a weekend in a UK city that I don't feel I have fully explored.  Oxford has been mentioned.

Go to 3 major tourist attractions.  Doesn't matter which ones - Buckingham Palace, Blenheim Palace, British Museum.  As long as they are new to me.

Go to one castle/palace/stately home.

Go to 20/20 cricket.  I keep saying this every year that I am going to go to a 20/20 game.  I live in London, Lord's is on my way home, my sister is up for it - there are two cricket-mad guys at work who are going.  There is no excuse this year.

Explore The World

Go to one of my top 20 want to visit places.  This is a list that isn't published, but I will eventually get around to publishing it.  Yes I write even more that I don't publish.  Yes I did write last year that I needed to publish the list.

Go to a random country.  You know, random country generator.  When I find someone game, the plan is for 6 countries to be selected - and the most realistic one chosen.

Go to 4 new countries.  1 is booked - 3 I need to decide upon.


Increase my earnings.  Either by a pay rise or through doing some freelance work on the weekend.

Learn AngularJS.  I have to do this for work.  I'd rather be learning React or Vue, as AngularJS is seen as more difficult and will become obsolete (ish) in due course.  It's a JavaScript framework, by the way.

Launch at least one AngularJS app.  Maybe I'll do something new, or maybe I'll just re-code a current website, but I want to have produced one AngularJS app this year.  I'm thinking that a 20/20 cricket scoring app might be interesting and the right amount of challenge.

Launch Sunshine Design.  This is my half-built Sunshine Design website which is going to be my agency if I ever get around to it.  I'll probably just do a simple website first before I finish this - it needs clouds, birds, trees - all kinds of pretty stuff.  Something else also on last year's list.

Spend Money

Give a minimum of £5 to charity every month.  This may not sound an awfully large amount - I don't have huge volumes of spare cash.  But the point is to get me thinking more about different charities and their work.

Replace my phone.  I think I've decided upon the OnePlus 5T.  My current phone is less coherent than Brexit, and takes longer to decide what it is doing than Theresa May does.  I'm buying it outright as it saves a lot of money over the long-term.

Buy at least one vinyl a month.  Maybe my DJ career is over, but I love music and want to buy more of it - I am aware that I have a couple of illegally downloaded tracks on my PC, so I'm going to ensure I buy minimum one vinyl every month.  I still buy CD albums by the way - I spend way more on music than the average person.

Increase my savings by 50%.  I don't have much savings, nor do I have much income.  And I certainly have no idea how I will achieve this.  Nor do I even know what I am saving for.


Start Moorgate Munching - a blog/Instagram page for food around where I work.  I've half-started this, bought the domain name, half-written two blogs, but you guessed it - not published them.

Fame from Roast Dinners in London.  I want fame.  Actually, I don't - there is a reason why I am anonymous for Roast Dinners in London.  But I want the blog to be widely-known, widely-acknowledged - even if it is widely-condemned.

Maybe start another blog.  I have ideas, but guess what I don't have?


Find out if I am still a Tory.  It is pretty difficult nowadays to support the Conservative Party, given Brexit, given the wrong-headed direction of government and the utterly useless, uninspiring Prime Minister.  Alas, it is a bulwark against socialism and the nasty, vile, bullying types that the far-left attracts.  But, am I still a Tory?

Decide if the DJ dream is still on or not.  Well the dream isn't on, but decide if it is worth pushing myself as an occasional DJ.  I'm never going to be as good as other DJs, I accept that.  I do think that I have a story to tell, but I'm not sure anyone is that bothered about it.

Read less.  Many people should read more - the internet is full of people that know fuck all (and think they know everything).  Yet I read far too much.  I enjoy reading and finding out stuff - I must find a way to curtail my thirst for knowledge as I simply don't have the time.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Highlights Of 2017

Yeah I know, the reflective period for 2017 is long over.  But I started writing this during said reflective period (in my head, anyway), so I'm going to finish it.

I normally do some kind of look-back at the year, more for my own purposes than anyone else's amusement.

You could call it a transition year, but I guess you could call many years for most people a transition year.  Though at the beginning of 2017 I was unemployed.  Quite happy about it at the beginning but it soon started to grate on me - I didn't mind too much being sat at home all day, I kept myself busy, I studied and I made as much progress with my portfolio as possible.

Towards the end of unemployment, I had had enough of the highs and lows, the hopes being dashed - and fucking recruitment consultants...of the bullshitting variety - I know there are good ones too, but the good ones weren't interested in someone with minimal experience.

And I finished the year as an accomplished junior web developer - exactly what I had been working towards in recent years.

Nothing really went wrong this year, thankfully.  No funerals, no job losses, no major health issues - hell I even had a date.  Though it was a year of relative financial struggle, which really limited what I could do.  My annual salary was still lower than the peak in 2010, and in terms of available spending money I had around 60% of what I had when I lived in Bracknell.  And still do as I write this - lets not pretend anything has changed!

Maybe struggle is too strong a word - limitation would be a better description.  I lost count of the amount of times I had to turn things down or had to curtail my enjoyment when out.  It isn't a complaint - I knew what I was going into when I decided to change career.

So, here are my top 12 moments of 2017 (I couldn't get it down to 10):

12. Seeing Martin A - It seems unfair to pick a meet-up with one friend over any other, but most of my very good friends are far more accessible than my wonderful weirdo over in Dubai.  It was just a Wednesday night, I was tired and had just a few cans of beer in my hand - but it was just so good to see him, for the first time in two years.  I wish I could see more of my friends that have moved away, but alas, same old story - I never have enough money.

11. Kew Gardens - A Christmas present for my closest friend, I think we went in May,  perhaps April, the weather was pleasant, warm enough for wearing a t-shirt, and we simply had a very nice day strolling around Kew Gardens.  Simple, effective, pleasant - with some pretty excellent cake.

10. Bratislava - I was unemployed and didn't really feel like going on holiday, I was having a bit of a miserable time - yet I had booked it just before I lost my job, so there was no turning back.  We tried to do it as cheap as possible, yet there wasn't a hell of a lot to do in Bratislava at a constant -4'C in the depths of January, but go into pubs and drink cheap beer.  It won't go down as one of my favourite places but it certainly had a charm to it.

9. Sevilla - I wanted one last spell in the sun before winter arrived, and decided that a trip to Sevilla at the beginning of November was probably the only way I was going to manage this - in the beautiful sunshine and 25'C temperatures, it has to be said that I fully appreciated.  My first proper solo holiday - I sure would have enjoyed it more with other people but I enjoyed my little break, and will happily go on holiday by myself again.  Maybe next time try to find a way to either meet locals, or other solo travellers.  There must be an app?  Besides Tinder?

8. Relegation - It may seem strange to pick such a dire outcome as a highlight, and I guess has much to do with who I am as a person and where I am from, that I can pick the positives of camaraderie from what was a dreadful outcome.  Football wouldn't be something that I would choose to get into now, but I still enjoy it and find the whole story fascinating - the ups and downs of my football club, Hull City AFC, I think perfectly show the emotions of the game.  3 of us Hull types headed to Crystal Palace one Sunday morning, knowing a defeat would relegate us, and a victory wouldn't even guarantee what was an unlikely survival.  The atmosphere between the fans was electric and the usual nutcases were doing their throwing beer everywhere thing which is so classy yet so watchable in a "visiting a council estate for viewing purposes" kind of way.  And after about 3 minutes, we were 1-0 down.  2-0 at half-time and everyone was resigned.  We lost 4-0 in the end, I think, yet there was a feeling of togetherness in defeat, which I kind of enjoy.  We topped this off with the most miserable roast dinner of the year, but later had a beer elsewhere with the most amazingly hot Portuguese woman serving us and flashing her cleavage at us.

7. Oblix - I had to put a roast dinner on the list.  And though not the best roast dinner in itself, the whole experience was exceptional.  Being up The Shard, with 3 top people for company, those views, the amazing service, the beautiful wine, the sumptuous meat.  I spent nearly as much in there as I did in 3 days in Sevilla, but hell, it was a damn fine experience.

6. Klimt - When my holiday accomplice and new-found mate, Dave, suggested going to see a Gustav Klimt exhibition in Milan on our last day, I wasn't convinced but I thought I should go along with the idea, for I wanted him to come to a big outdoor rave two days later.  Well, my eyes were opened to a new world, and I had a new favourite artist.  Plus - boobs.

5. Taking friends to Hull - 10 years ago I would not have dared take any friends to Hull.  5 years ago it was still a joke of an idea.  Then in 2017, Hull became the UK's City Of Culture, and finally, for the first time in my life I could be rightly proud of my home city.  The change to Hull is remarkable, the city centre has been vastly cleaned and spruced up, and there are many more events going on than used to be the case.  But more importantly, it has a sense of pride for the first time in decades - you can feel it walking around the city.  Hull - it isn't shit any more.  And yes, my two ace friends really enjoyed it.

4. Zurich Street Parade - This was just immense fun.  30 trucks going around the lake in Zurich, with hundreds of thousands of people dancing to an fairly broad spectrum of dance music, though more often techno.  It was not only a cacophony of different sounds but there was just so much to see, and so much entertainment.  The music was good - from minimal, to house, to bloody hardstyle - which was suitably hilarious.  Culminating in a visit to a church for shelter, an inability to walk and a game of ice bowling in the hotel corridor.  I would love to go again.

3. Being offered the job - I think I had been interviewed for the first time about 3-4 weeks earlier, and had pretty much given up any expectation on this one, but then I had a second interview with the MD, and continued to wait.  It still took a while to hear anything but finally I received a call offering me the job.  I couldn't believe it!i  And just 30 minutes before I discovered a track that I had been trying to ID for a few months too.  The job has, of course, changed my life totally - though very challenging at times, it is what I dreamed of and I couldn't have asked for any more.

2. Walking In Mountains - With a belly full of free breakfast and a fair hangover, the three of us set off to go walking to see what we could find in the remote town of Tirana in Italy.  No real plan but we headed upstream, well, up and alongside a river with various warning signs not to go anywhere near it.  It was a gentle incline upwards, surrounded by mountains and eventually developing rainclouds.  The scenery was stunning, I felt so at peace and disconnected to my usual world.  And the beer upon arrival at a cafe, just before it started raining heavily, was joyful.

1. The Bernina Express - You can tell I'm getting old, not only when I nearly forgot to write about my favourite moment of the year, but also the fact that my favourite moment of the year was a train journey.  Yes a train journey.  For some reason I had my heart set on going through the Swiss mountains on a train (the random country generator told me to).  It was every bit as stunning as I expected, the vodka flowed, the mountains passed - shamed it pissed down with rain, but I got to see a glacier and even a few snowflakes - in August.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Complaint: Memories & Yoghurts

Dear M&S

I remember when I was a child, hating every single minute of being dragged around Marks & Spencer in Hull.  All I wanted to do was go out and play football, and perhaps set fire to the odd rubbish bin if I could steal some matches.

But no, almost every Saturday, my mother and father decided that they would torture me by spending elongated periods in this infernal hell.  The only positive experience I ever had in there was when I found a penny on the floor.

As soon as I was old enough to buy my own fire-lighting equipment, I resolved that I would never step foot in Marks & Spencer ever again.  Oh how I laughed every time there were reports in the news about low sales.

Roll on 30 years, and I have somehow found that I quite like your food.  Very much like it, in fact.  Sadly, I am on a fairly low wage, so it is a rare treat for me to go into Marks & Spencer.

Recently I went in and purchased a pack of 4 M&S yoghurts, I forget exactly which but they were along the lines of blackcurrant, perhaps rhubarb, and two other flavours.  Around £1.85 maybe.

I went back to work and tried to break one off.  And tried, and tried.  And tried some more.  I simply could not get the separate the individual yoghurt pots.

What did however occur, was that all 4 yoghurt lids came off.  Helpful if you want 4 yoghurts or perhaps have 3 very attractive young ladies that you are going to lay on the floor with and spoon yoghurt into each other's mouths.

Sadly I was at work.  I did not want 4 yoghurts.  And I was going to the pub after, on the tube - open yoghurt pots were not going to be useful travel companions.

I was so disamused that I didn't even bother to eat one yoghurt.

James 'Yoghurt-less' Winfield


Hi James

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about the yoghurts you bought recently.

Like you, I have many memories of being dragged around my local M&S by my mum on a bleak Saturday morning. I can't say I had the same desire to get hold of some matches to set fire to a rubbish bin, but each to their own!

However, again, like you, I too have developed a kind of love affair with M&S food and I love treating myself every now an again. So I can only imagine how gutting it must've been for all the lids to peel off the yoghurts. I also agree, opened yoghurt is not an appropriate pub snack!

The standard of our food and the packaging it comes in means a lot to us, and we put a lot of time and effort into making sure it’s perfect.

The information you’ve given us about what was wrong has been very useful. I’ve reported this to my colleagues who work in our Food team, and they’ll be keeping a close eye on this range to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I'd like to send you a gift card to cover the cost of the yoghurts so you can treat yourself to something else from our store. So I can do this, can you send us your address please?

We look forward to hearing from you soon, James.

Kind regards

Retail Customer Services
Your M&S Customer Service


Dear Miss xxxx

I am touched to hear that I am not the only child to have suffered at the hands of weekly parental shopping decisions. Perhaps this could be the start of a beautiful friendship?

My address is below - I look forward to having 4 yoghurts for dinner shortly.

Have a nice day, new friend,


Dear James,

Thanks for getting back to us with your address, I'm sorry to have come between you and xxxx!

I've popped a £2 gift card in the post for you, to cover the cost of the yoghurts. This will be on your doorstep within 3-5 working days and can be used in any of our UK stores or online at

I hope you enjoy your yoghurts, with or without attractive young women present.
Kind regards

Retail Customer Services
Your M&S Customer Service

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Complaint: Tesco Avocados

Sometimes it takes a bit of work to get a refund...or just to find common cause with your refunder:


Dear Tesco

I am generally not a fan of your food quality - some will call me a snob, but I am from up north so not entirely sure that is something that can be aimed at me.

Anyway, I actually quite like your avocados, and go through several a week.  Well, I normally like your avocados.

Over the last month, I have had two pretty horrid, soft and close to inedible avocados from your Rayner's Lane store.

I will keep buying them from there, as the good ones far outweigh the bad, however I have not been left amused by the quality - I live in London and need my avocados.  Do you not understand?

Also, your store sometimes smells of poo.  Actual poo.  This has been only on occasion this year, but last year it was fairly consistent.

Any idea why?

Kind regards
James Avocado Winfield


Dear Mr Winfield

Thank you for your email.
I am sorry to read of the problems which you have encountered, when purchasing advocados from your local store. I can appreciate how annoying this must have been for you, especially as the some of the advocado's have been of poor quality and the store seems to have an unpleasent odour.

We’re committed to sourcing our products responsibly and take the quality of all of the products we sell very seriously. Any complaint about a product is recorded which allows us to work with our suppliers to ensure that our products are of the highest quality.

In order for me to ensure that this is done, I’d be very grateful if you could reply to me with some details, which I’d like to pass on to our supplier with your permission. Could you tell me:

- Your full postal address - Your telephone number - Product barcode - Cost of the product - Use by/best before date - Supplier code -

Our technical teams work closely with our suppliers to alert them to any product concerns and ensure that the highest standards are being met. Unfortunately, it does appear that something went wrong on this occasion, but we hope you’ll be reassured to know the information you have given us will help us to stop this from happening again.

Upon receipt of these additional details, I would also be happy to send you a Tesco Moneycard to reimburse you for the cost of the product.

Also, please can you advise me which store you purchased the advocados from? As I would like to raise your complaint about the strong odour circulating the store.
Thanks again for taking the time to tell us about this. I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards

Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre



Gosh I don't remember what date I bought them on, let alone what the barcode was!  It's a struggle to remember my name sometimes.

They were in the loosely supplied section, so had no sell-by date.  The store is the one close to Rayner's Lane tube station.  One occasion was a couple of weeks ago (they all felt out of date actually, the one I bought I hoped less so...alas), the other occasion in December.

My address is below and my phone number is xxxxxxxxxxx.  I hope that helps.

Kind regards



Dear Mr Winfield

Thank you for your reply and please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in my response.

Sadly, I have been unable to reach the store by phone. I have therefore sent your feedback to the store, regarding the smell in store. So, hopefully this can be resolved as soon as posisble.

In addition, I am sorry that the packaging is no longer available for the advocado's. As you can appreciate that we would require the barcode number, in order to feed your comments back to the relevent Supplier and also provide a refund.

Going forward, should you experience any further quality issues with the products which you purchase from us, please return this to store along with your receipt.

Thank you for contacting me and for bringing this to my attention.

Kind regards

Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre


Dear xxxx

I am not sure that you have understood my previous e-mail.

The avocados in the store are sold loose.  They have never had any packaging as such.  This is fine.

However what is not acceptable is when they are inedible - ie sold when they are clearly out of date.

This is surely a Tesco store management issue as opposed to a supplier issue?



Dear James

Thank you for your email reply.

xxxx is out of the business so please allow me to respond in her absence.

If the avocados are coming into the store in this condition, then xxxx is right in believing it is a supplier issue.  Staff are trained to check stock periodically to ensure anything that is not fit for consumption is removed whenever possible.  Loose fruit and vegetables is certainly something the staff are able to keep an eye on as they don't contain any outer packaging as you've stated.

Usually even loose products will contain an Oval shape type sticker with some supplier details.  This would have been helpful to xxxx, but I realise you've now thrown everything away so this is not possible to take from you.

With that said, I can see that xxxx has made the store fully aware of your concerns and especially in regards to the odour you've experienced whilst shopping there.  This is being investigated behind the scenes to help ensure any future visit is a pleasant one.  If not, please do ask to speak with an in-store Duty Manager.

As we have no supplier details or product to have returned to the store, it is very difficult to refund you for these.  If you had photos of the supplier's sticker, along with any photos showing the poor quality, we would have been able to help.

Please rest assured that it's never our intention to frustrate or disappoint any customer at any time.  However, I do hope the above explains why I'm unable to meet your expectations on this occasion.

If you still feel a refund is in order, I would kindly suggest speaking with the store's Duty Manager on your next usual visit.  Please do take along your till receipt to help them assist you further.

Thank you for your time and if there is anything else we can do to help, please do let us know.

Kind regards

Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre


A week or so later...


Dear xxxx

I appreciate that you are probably thinking, "thank **** we shut him up", but just like a bad smell, or perhaps Nigel Farage, I am back.

So I've bought another avocado from the local Tesco Express store so that I can send you a photograph of the barcode.  I appreciate that it isn't exactly the same sticker as the two badvocados had, but I expect that it is exactly the same barcode.

I don't really know why I am persisting with this, but I do feel that there is a slight soon-to-be-denied lack of trust towards what I am saying, and that you perhaps feel that as I am a northerner, I cannot possibly be eating something as healthy as an avocado.  Don't worry, I will consume large volumes of bacon, beer and cocaine as soon as possible.

Alas, I am stuck with my morose feelings of incompleteness from two well below standard avocados - and now another one which I haven't opened yet, but should be ok.  But there is that element of trepidation.

I should probably just leave it here and not still be banging on about it, I could just avoid shopping at Tesco for a few weeks to give myself some vague satisfaction that I am sticking it to the multi-national corporation for allowing two bad avocados to be purchased.  I am sure that you will miss my average monthly spend of around £31.54 as much as we missed Nigel Farage not being on the news last week.

Anyway, photograph of barcode pointlessly attached.

I look forward to your corporate platitudes in return.

Kindish regards


ps If you get bored on your lunch break, I do a fine collection of roast dinner reviews on my blog -


Dear James

Thank you for your further email and my profuse apologies for the week taken to reply.  I was offer for a few days and unfortunately the email wasn't picked up by a colleague.

With that said, I've now arranged for a £10.00 Tesco Moneycard to be sent to you in the post.  This should arrive within the next 5 - 10 working days.  I've also notified the supplier for internal purposes, sp rest assured that they've been informed of your experience behind the scenes.

It's been a pleasure to help and if there is anything else I can do to help James, please do let me know.

Kind regards

Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre


Dear xxxx

Thank you for your e-mail and your kind offer of compensation - I only wanted £2.20 but hey, I won't say anything if you don't.

Slightly bad timing though as I was fishing around for things to give up for Lent yesterday.

In previous years I have given up paper clips, zebra crossings and trimming my eyebrows.  It gets more difficult to think of suitable things to give up for Lent - it always kind of slaps me in the face when I'm not expecting it - and you'd have thought that they would have had it on a different week to Valentine's Day, but hey ho.  Hopefully they'll look into the timing issue for next year.

Anyway, so I was waiting quite a long time to use the self-service machines yesterday - not your fault, just some very slow people in front of me, when it dawned on me - I should give up Tesco for Lent.

Oh well, I'm committed to it now.  Though last year I gave up talking about Brexit for Lent, which didn't last very long.

I look forward to having a Tesco avocado feast in early April.

All the best


Conclusion - all you need to do is show your contempt for Nigel Farage to get your own way.

Complaint - Brexit Costing Me Another £1 A Month - OFFICIAL!

I received an invoice last month from my hosting company for £5.99 instead of the usual £4.99.  Cue an e-mail:


I noticed that you are trying to charge me £5.99 for hosting this month, instead of the usual £4.99.

Please can you correct your invoice and ensure the correct amount of £4.99 is charged.

Kind regards


Hi James,

Thank you for contacting us on the matter and apologies for the delay in my reply.

I'm afraid the price of £5.99 is the correct amount of the hosting package as we have increased our hosting package's prices by 20% and we have notified all of our customers about this change via email.

Since 2003 we have offered the same great service without any price adjustments. Over those 14 years we have absorbed the cost of inflation rather that passing the cost on to our customers.  Due to the effects of inflation and a weaker pound, our hosting is now cheaper in real terms than it ever has been. We need to make a one-off adjustment to address this so that we can keep offering the same excellent standards of service and continue investing in our infrastructure, improving reliability, performance and features.

Please let me know if you require any further assistance as we would be more than happy to help!

Best regards,

Technical Support.



So basically my hosting costs have gone up 20% due to Brexit?

Also I was not advised of the increased cost.




Hi James,

I have just double-checked and our system should have sent an email to you entitled 'Important news about your hosting' on the 08/12/2017.

I fully understand how troubling this can be for you, however, we promise to not let you down as your hosting provider!

Best regards,

Technical Support.



I've just done a search of my e-mails and cannot find it.  Anyway, I'm more annoyed that Brexit is yet again costing me money - I dread to think what you think of the UK over there in Hungary...then again your leader is hardly a saint!  I'm guessing Hungary from your name, apologies if I am wrong.

All the best



Hi James,

My apologies for the email being lost!

I fully understand how troubling this can be and how Brexit has caused you a loss in money. I'm afraid, I am not from Hungary, however, no worries!

I hope you have a fabulous weekend and please drop me a line if you require further assistance!

Best regards,

Technical Support.


Proof that Brexit is costing me yet more money.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Complaint: Society Six

Good afternoon

I'm not having much luck with yourselves.

Recently I used my voucher from my previous complaint for the t-shirt that I had ordered that fell apart.

Instead of receiving the expected t-shirt, I received a shiny silver postcard from the Royal Mail, advising that there was a £4.48 customs charge to pay.  Oh and an £8.00 fee for the privilege of handling it.

So a total of £12.48, or roughly $5,000.00 with the post-Brexit vote exchange rate - but that's all good because we've taken back control.  Yeah.

I don't mind paying the customs charge, but surely it should be added at your side?  Surely your customer should not be paying around 100% extra to get the t-shirt from the warehouse - and don't forget the administrative burden of trying to use the damn Royal Mail website - trying to remember which one of my several accounts and passwords that I've had to set up over the years it actually still accepts.


I'm quite happy just to blame Donald Trump and forgo a couple of salt beef bagels, but I just wanted to feed back the ballache and extra charges I have incurred (for my free t-shirt which replaces the broken one).

All the best and good luck with your anti-President.



Hello James,

I am very sorry that you are being asked to pay a customs charge. It does state on our site and in your order confirmation emails, there is a possibility of a customs fee for all international orders at time of delivery.

Your cart will not reflect these duties as they are applied at the time of arrival by the custom’s office that received them, and are not applied or collected by Society6. Customs fees are separate from shipping fees with Society6.

I do understand that this charge has come as a surprise so as a one-time courtesy I can refund the amount of the customs costs from your total you paid with Society6.

Just attach a photo of the customs receipt to submit for a refund of these charges.

We apologize for any inconvenience.



Hi Julia

I have attached photographs of the customs charge. I hope this is sufficient.

Please can you confirm how the charge will be refunded? I hope not in vouchers, as I am not keen on purchasing again from yourselves - I really like your designs - in product terms I really would like to spend more money with yourselves, but the customs charges and subsequent extra time and effort in retrieving items make it fairly prohibitive.

Are you not able to add the customs charges onto the checkout process?

Or have you considered opening a European distribution centre?

Kind regards



Hi James,

I apologize for the inconvenience. We are looking at ways to avoid customs charges in the future.

Unfortunately it looks like this order was placed with a $25 off coupon, so there is nothing for us to refund the customs charge to.

All we can do is offer store credit for a future order.

I apologize for the inconvenience here. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Detox Update

It is a month into my 3-month detox already.

In terms of alcohol it has been piss-easy.  Rarely have I considered having a drink - I am comfortably managing afternoon visits to pubs with only soft drinks.  Only when something has annoyed me and I've had a mini 5-minute rage-strop have I thought about alcohol.  Though it would be nice to have a glass of red wine to write this with.

Avoiding red meat is another question.  Sausage sandwiches and sausage rolls are out - but I do crave them quite often...very often at first!  I'm not strictly avoiding red meat, I do allow myself it on a roast dinner (I cannot have chicken every week...and me eat a vegetarian roast...yeeeeeeaaaah), but otherwise I have avoided it.

I've just added chocolate and cake to my banned list...might as well for the hell of it.

Alas, my diet is pretty much super-healthy yet I am not losing my belly.  Which is pretty annoying.  Yeah I know what you are saying, "do some exercise you tosser".  Time, ladies and gentlemen.

I am occasionally a bit bored by all of the restrictions.  This time of year is perfect to do a detox, as people are going out less and there are far fewer invites to events.

Unsurprisingly I have no money either.  For January I had to pay for my flights for a holiday which I absolutely cannot afford, plus pay back my overspend in December.  In February I am putting my holiday spending money aside so I'll have a budget of just £300 which needs to pay for food too.  In March I am going to buy a new phone outright, so again I'll have a budget of around £300.

Which I can survive on - I'm not complaining about it - some have far less than I do, but means I have to limit my fun and my expenditure.  So for example, this weekend I am going to treat myself to a piece of fish from the local fishmonger - hardly a peak of excitement.  Dover Sole, perhaps?  Don't think I've ever had it.

I am also trying to work out ways to expand my earning potential.  Clearly web development is the key to that.  I need to upgrade my skills, and learn AngularJS to help with work - I have started and some of it is sinking in, but until I start using it on a day-to-day basis, I won't fully understand it.

But upgrading my skills for work is one thing - whether it will increase my earnings from my actual job this year I cannot answer.

So the other side is to make sure that I have an active website advertising my skills in the hope of picking up the odd client - I have had some small pieces of work over the last year but they only paid enough for a handful of roast dinners.  Then again, I don't have much free time, so there is only so much that I can actually do.

I do already have audiences on, for example, my roast dinners blogs - I even had an enquiry the other day from Roast Dinners Around Reading, in regards to improving a website - though he's disappeared since I mentioned a price.  Maybe it was too high...I'm still struggling with the idea of pricing myself.

Some simple banner ads would surely at least get a few people across - though I need to build the website first for my imaginary web design agency.

Also I could make a website for my weather page - given that I have over 5,000 followers, there should surely be something I could do to monetise it - perhaps an individual paid-for weather forecast.  Or maybe just host advertising for local businesses...I'm only talking small amounts.  Hell, maybe even a donation button - a few people have in the past asked if there was a way to pay for my forecasts.  Or a paid-for app...but that is another mission entirely.

I actually want to start two new blogs.  Yes, I know I don't have time to update most of my current ones.  One is potentially going to be called Love, Life & Loathing of London - again with the aim of trying to have some minor kind of monetisation.

The other might just be an Instagram page, or maybe a small blog, called Moorgate Munching - helping to find good food in the specific area where I work.  Not that I can often afford to eat out at lunch, and I don't have the time to write-up any large reviews anyway.  Maybe it won't happen.

As always, the lack of time in my life matches the lack of money.  I know I'm not unique in either of those senses.

And, of course, this weekend I will end up concentrating on cleaning the house.  Instead of doing any of the web development projects that I have outlined above - as I feel spiritually much more positive in a clean house, and cannot yet afford a cleaner.  If only I had some more time so I could do some web development to help increase my earning potential so I can afford a cleaner to give me more time to help increase my earning potential.

It is very much a heads-down period, trying to concentrate on various areas of self-improvement, so I can enjoy life more in the rest of the year, and future years.  Sacrifices, my friend.

Yet I have also found some time to enjoy London recently.  Last weekend I went to the British Museum...well actually that was really dull but it was just nice to wander around with my favourite.  We had dinner in a really homely place in Soho called Claw - I had some awesome fish fingers with just delectable mayonnaise...I don't actually like mayonnaise so for that to impress me was quite something.

I then had a second trip to Soho last weekend, this time to exchange a trinket for a chocolate bar from a Cadbury's pop-up (sorry mum but I swapped that tacky Hull keyring that you gave me for Christmas that I was going to throw away...I'm sure you would have done the same).  Free chocolate! Yeah I gave up chocolate on Monday.

Roast dinners have, of course, continued - I also went to some fairly random show at the Vault Festival last Sunday...a drag queen doing an hour of cabaret in the world's dampest "theatre" perhaps wasn't the best thing I've seen in my life...or at least the most suitable for my tastes.

I'm also starting to plan other holidays that I probably cannot afford without another month off the booze.  I'm accepting the likelihood that if I am to achieve my goal of going to 4 new countries this year, then I'll likely have to do at least some of it by myself.  It isn't always easy to find people to go on holiday with - especially given the low budget that I have.  Though I haven't really been trying.  And if someone popped up now and said, "I'd love to go on holiday with you", then I wouldn't be able to commit either.

Anyway, I quite fancy a trip to Slovenia, staying around Triglav National Park and getting some mountains, lake and forest stuff in - the scenery just looks gorgeous (yeah I'm nearly 40).  Just going for a walk, enjoying the surroundings, having a few chilled out beers, staying in a B&B or two.  And perhaps a day in Ljubljana too - which I definitely do not pronounce correctly.

I also quite fancy trips to Vienna, Athens, Budapest and Belgrade - if I am being more adventurous then I also fancy Tbilisi and Tirana - capitals of Georgia and Albania, respectively, just in case you didn't know.

Whether I'll be able to afford any of them is, of course, the perennial question, but if I do increase my earnings and am careful with my spending in this country (ie no nightclubs and cut down on random boozy sessions) then I should be able to squeeze one or two in.

So, another two months of this detox to go.

I don't feel inspiringly fantastic and I have barely lost any of the weight I have put on since last April.  I still don't have any money, I haven't ticked much off my to-do list and I have barely touched any non-work coding projects.  And still need to buy some new pants.

Yet I feel that I am going in the right direction.  Broadly speaking, life is imperfectly good.

Roll on April.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Happy 38th Birthday To Me

Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me...yeahhhhhhhhh.  I find my birthday increasingly psychologically bizarre - it's like a form of validation for myself as a human.

Despite Brexit, I generally think I'm a decent, funny and occasionally interesting person but I still have doubts about myself, and wonder whether I could be a nicer, happier, more interesting, etc, person to be around.  And then when I organise a birthday meal (or whatever I organise) I worry that nobody will turn up, or people will cancel.

So the weeks running up to my birthday I always have these very occasional paranoid, insecure thoughts that maybe everyone thinks I'm an arsehole - or worse, that I'm boring.

Weird, I know, but hey.  I do very occasionally have those thoughts.

Having a birthday in January isn't exactly the most convenient of times - yesterday was cold, pissing down with rain, even snowing - many people are skint, on detox, diets yadda yadda.  So people have plenty of excuses to say no, and plenty of reasons to cancel. Not to mention that some of my closest friends are living in other countries (yes Scotland counts too), and many in another town.

Every year I go through the same phase from "I'm not organising anything this time" a month or so before, to waking up on the Sunday wondering if everyone has of the only times I was not excited about the possibility of snow!

And, of course, everything went fine yesterday and I had a really nice afternoon, as happens every birthday - despite the lack of beer, oh and not getting to sleep until 4am the night before - both of which made me socially slightly less capable than normal with stuttering introductions and jerky hugging.  Oh and the roast wasn't great either, but sufficiently decent.

Thank you for those who are able to attend.  The effort and company was hugely appreciated.

My actual birthday is a Monday.  Yeah you've probably worked out that today is Monday already.  In hindsight I really wish I had booked the day off work.  I don't normally - last two years were Friday and Sunday birthdays, respectively, but this year was a Monday.  I normally don't take any time off before Easter, as I like to save my holiday for when it is warm...or should be.  And I only get 20 days holiday, so I didn't want to waste holiday days.  But yeah, in hindsight I should have had the day off and done something I enjoy, maybe a walk around Regent's Park, or explore somewhere...or a museum.

So instead, I woke up late so had to rush to get ready...trying my hardest not to be late to work any more from my own doing.  Had another bad night's sleep last night so I was feeling really tired.

I was really looking forward to my salmon bagel at work (free breakfast on a Monday) - alas by time I noticed that it was served, it had all run out.  I stormed out of the office in a huff - I DESERVE SMOKED SALMON ON MY BIRTHDAY.  I ended up buying a chicken sandwich and a Red Bull (haven't quite given up caffeine yet on the detox), came back to the office to find that they'd put out more smoked salmon.  Sigh.  6% of my remaining £60 budget for the month wasted on a half-eaten sandwich due to my strop.

On my lunch break I went donut shopping - first to Doughnut Time, which is a new place on Old Street - only to get there and realise that they are £4 each.  £4 for a fucking donut?  Not even on my birthday.  So I then went in the other direction to get a strawberry and cream Krispy Kreme donut (are you really still reading?) from possibly the most miserable and disinterested person I have seen outside of Sunderland.

Not the busiest day at work as I was waiting for projects to be signed off, so kind of doing quite bitty things, and testing, but a new project came through in time for my sugar high comedown.  I much prefer it when I can get my head down and code, but alas, today wasn't one of those days.  The rest of the week should be.

What is the point of this blog?  Well today was just another day, punctuated by some very nice messages and a couple of gifts,  with a big fat completely unnecessary pie to end.  The pie was suitably average too - despite being from M&S.  I swear their food quality is going down quite significantly.

I spoke to my parents briefly, wrote my weather forecast and now am going to bed.  Early.

With validation.  I have had my required validation.  Thanks to all those that have sent me a tiny bit of love and validation.  It does mean a lot.

Now I just want one more birthday present.  A good night's sleep.  Though I suspect I have a bit more fun to come this weekend.  Who really celebrates their birthday just once?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cultural Adventures

It's crazy to think of what people think of me as a Hullite now compared to a couple of years ago.

Prior to Hull being the UK's City Of Culture, most people would have had me down as some kind of cultural oaf - yet now, Hull is synonymous with cultural offerings, and of course, being from Hull means that one is now highly regarded in cultural matters.

People from Reading are proud to have a new burger made in their honour.  People from Hull are proud to now be regarded as exemplary custodians of culture.

Whilst Hull may now be the centre of culture in the UK, London still has a few offerings, and I have been on my adventures recently.

Starting with Russian protest art at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea (thanks for the election wins, by the way).

It included features on Pussy Riot, Oleg Kulik and Pyotr Pavlensky, whom I am sure that you are all aware of - Oleg being the man who "artistically" acted as a dog, Pyotr being the man of stunts such as nailing his bollocks to the ground on Red Square in Moscow - ouch.

Alongside these were some rather defecating depictions of world leaders.


Jeez what the hell is going on with the layout?  That's why I don't start new blogs on Blogger.  Anyway...

There were also some cardboard boxes.  I like boxes.  Which is pretty useful working for a storage company.

Much better layout.  Speaking of design, I then also went to the Design Museum in Kensington.  In terms of the building, I really like what they had done - but it did seem quite a waste of space.

The actual exhibitions were rather crammed and badly designed - often with no logical flow.

It was of mild interest to see the collection of old electronics, but so, so much more could have been done with the exhibitions themselves.

Nicely designed toilet though.

A couple of weeks later I went to watch a pantomime for the first time since I was a young child.  In a caravan.  Oh yes I did.  It was really clever, 20 minutes long, amalgamating Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, around the modern-day theme of sexual harassment in the workplace.

I highly enjoyed it - and might go see their next performances at Vault Festival in February/March.

Then we went to look at a Gingerbread City - which was Instagram heaven.

The last one was my favourite as I just thought it represented modern life brilliantly.

These were all gingerbread buildings created by firms of architects, and on display at the "Museum" of Architecture - a very small museum consisting of one room that you could visit.

And of course, I did some culture in Hull.  There were 4 installations of robotic arms, programmed in different ways to represent communication.  Some communicated with each other, some communicated with us, some communicated with space - and the final one communicated with the statue of William Wilberforce.

Interesting - not overwhelmingly amazing but thought-provoking to an extent.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Big Detox

So as of January 1st, I started a 3 month detox.  Well, technically January 2nd once NYE has been taken into account.

Though I was quite looking forward to a detox and could tell that I needed it, I didn't want to do a 3 month detox.  My doctor is recommending it.  Yes, despite Michael Gove's proselytising, I have not yet had enough of experts.

A year ago I had some general tests done - I had some slightly unusual symptoms - nothing especially worrying, nothing serious or life-changing, but thought given my previous 20 years of bodily abuse, that it would do no harm to go to the doctor instead of ignoring it.  Perhaps influenced by my father having had cancer the previous year, it seemed time to overcome my pretence that everything will be always be things normally do fix themselves.

Googling had also started to make me worried that I had diabetes, kidney failure or leprosy, so it seemed the wise choice to go see the doc.

He said nothing was probably wrong but did some blood tests anyway.

Everything came back fine.  Except for my liver which was overly fatty.  He told me to cut down on alcohol, lose some weight, and go back around May for another test.

I duly cut down on alcohol and I continued to lose weight.  The liver does repair itself if you give it chance.

Then summer happened.  And I found myself working in the centre of London with temptation everywhere.  I slowly put on 12kg, becoming the heaviest I have ever been - and drank a lot.  A hell of a lot sometimes.

So I had a month long near-detox in September, and went back for those tests, thinking everything would be clear.

No, my liver was slightly worse.  Though this doctor was easier to understand, and much clearer on what I should do.

I could ignore it, but the chances are that I would develop problems with my liver if I continued my lifestyle without giving my liver chance to fully recover.

So the options were 4-6 months with only 1 or 2 beers a week.  Or 3 months without.  Apparently the liver needs this long to repair damage - my annual month off is barely scratching the surface.

Fuck teasing myself with 1 beer a week, especially when the sun comes out in spring.  I'd rather go without.

I asked if there was anything else that I should avoid - energy drinks, perhaps?  Apparently they are fine, but he recommended that I avoid or reduce red meat if possible - though he did say he wouldn't expect it as it isn't a perfect world.  Which means cutting out beef, lamb, pork, pork chops, pork belly, bacon, ham, get it.  Sigh.  I've decided to cut out most red meat - once a week at most, ideally once a fortnight if I can.

So.  Three months of no alcohol, and only having red meat once a fortnight.

And that includes my birthday.  Yikes.

I'm cutting out caffeine too.  And cakes - maybe one a week at most.

Might have to keep chocolate in the mix though.

Roll on April 2nd.

Friday, December 08, 2017

James Went To Sevilla

Back in September, I decided that I'd like another holiday before the end of the year - I wanted to sit and drink beer in the sunshine one final time before winter arrived.  So I stopped drinking for a few weeks (minus one or two very minor aberrations).

I didn't know where to go, or who to go with.  I did suggest to a couple of friends about the idea of going away, but none seemed even remotely keen but I'd also been thinking about going away by myself.  I was going to do the Swiss Alps trip by myself - I didn't expect my sister to be keen when I semi-drunkenly mentioned it last year.

I am quite comfortable on my own - I've had to learn to be so and it hasn't been easy in the past.  So I had been seriously considering the idea of going away by myself for a year or so, and I didn't put much effort into finding a companion once I'd asked a couple of people.

Why Sevilla?

When my colleagues asked me, I simply said that I wanted to look at Spanish women.

Google had made promises to me and I had to go look myself.

The first realistic week that I could afford was the first full week of November and I didn't expect many places in Europe would be warm and sunny at that point.  South of Spain was the one likely spot, and my parents had visited Sevilla earlier this year and were rather enamoured by it.

Whilst I begrudged the idea that I was not visiting a new country, it ticked my boxes - cheap, good food, pretty women, and some culture.

It was a frosty morning and I was getting one of the first tubes of the day.  I was still quite zombiefied (and a touch hungover from my dinner and drinks the day before) when arrived into the glory of Luton airport.

Though Luton airport was less shit than I expected, and I even managed to find an affordable pint of craft lager.  Airport beers are obligatory, even early on a Monday morning by yourself.

My Easyjet flight was surprisingly relaxing - I could have been on any airline, and nobody tried to sell me something every 10 minutes.  At least that I noticed.

My apartment was small - a fairly cheap airbnb affair.  My host was very friendly and helpful - thankfully he spoke more English than I did Spanish though I tried my Spanish "skills" when writing.  It had everything I wanted in one small, cosy apartment.  Not sure I would want to live in such an apartment, but it would be a perfect starter home for someone wanting to get onto the property ladder in Spain.  Or around £400,000 in London.

The first priority was to put my shorts on, get a beer and start reading my £0.01 book from Amazon, Adventures on the Wheels of Steel: The Rise of the Superstar DJs by Haslam, a book about the history of music scenes and in particular DJs, with the obligatory fawning chapter over the wonderful Jimmy Savile, and all the charity work he did.  At least he was apparently wonderful when the book was written a good 15 years or so ago.

I made it to some long open boulevard that my host had recommended me.  It wasn't the most salubrious of areas but at least the relatively low-lying sunshine was shining on me due to the open expanse.  My abiding memory was of lots of flies, which kind of suited reading about how revolutionary Jimmy Savile was as a DJ.  Shudder.

For the rest of the day, I wandered around aimlessly, had a couple more beers, bought the obligatory ham, cheese and baguette for the apartamento in case I became hungry.  In the evening I went out for food, again I took my host's recommendation and went to a tiny little side street tapas place - I had two unimpressive dishes and a beer for a very impressive €4.40.  Just over half the amount I had paid for a plate of broccoli the day before.  Seville is cheap - even when I mistakenly sat down in a tourist trap cafe, I only paid €3.50 for a large cerveza.

My meal was culinary disappointing enough to dissuade me from spending any more money - and I was trying to do the trip on just €120 of spending money (I failed but not by much).

At the end of the day I wasn't impressed with Seville.  Neither charmed nor interested - I'd drank cheap beer with flies and had fairly uninteresting but cheap food.  Oh and why did pretty much every dish come with fries?  Oh, and I had only fallen in love once.  Where were all the hot Spanish flamenco dancers on every street corner that Google Images promised?

I don't like failure so I needed a plan, and decided to book a tour of Seville for the next day.  Two tours, in fact - both free tours (albeit with a tip being socially acceptable - and deserved).

The first tour was a tour through the historic part of the city to see the monuments.  There were two tours, one Spanish and one English.  The Spanish one, of course, was headed by a super-hot senorita.  I decided English would be more appropriate - he did once live in Manchester and was astounded by newspaper headlines of incoming heatwaves...with temperatures of 20'C.

Seville in the summer reached 46'C this year.  I would probably die.  I was perfectly happy in temperatures of 22'C to 25'C - though the mornings were notably chilly, and as soon as the sun disappeared by around 6pm, it quickly got chilly again.  Even I needed a jacket in the evening.  Yes, I did get one or two strange looks for wearing shorts - either that or Spanish women were finding me surprisingly attractive - I am going for the former.

So the tour.  We went past churchy stuff, though thankfully being on holiday without my sister meant I didn't have to then later go in them.  We went past the city hall, which amusingly one side was not decorated on the outside as they had run out of money in whatever century it was build - and could either afford to finish decorating the building, or throw a party for whoever it was being built for.  They chose the party.  I do love the Spanish.

We went past the palace, Alcazar, though not an awful lot to see on the outside, we were regaled by stories from our guide.  And then onto the university - which used to be a tobacco factory.

Then finally onto a set of buildings that were built by other countries as gifts to Spain, in some form of Expo.  As you can see, I haven't remembered much of the historic details - but there was some stunning architecture, especially in the beautiful park to finish.

The tour was excellent - I really do not know why I don't do guided tours when I go abroad.  This will change.  Especially if they are free.

Time for a couple of beers in the sunshine, and back to my book.

By late afternoon I went on another tour, this time of the old gypsy district, which used to be a no-go area historically.  And also where Flamenco dancing was reputedly from.

This tour guide was also excellent - though he only had two of us to show around.  Some of it was a bit churchy and stuff, but some of it was fascinating about the history of Seville, and this particular district - especially in regards to the history of the Moors.  I won't attempt to reproduce it in print as it would only be #fakehistory.

In the evening I also had my best meal of the holiday.  I spent ages trying to research tapas places - nowhere convinced me until I found a place called Bodega Dos De Mayo.  When I arrived, fairly late, it was busy and there was nowhere to sit.  I did think about going elsewhere, but I ignored my stabs of impatience and solo social awkwardness and hung on the street corner (I didn't see any prostitutes in Seville, by the way) until a table came free.

I was thankful that I did - the pork loin (with fries, of course) was beautiful.  I then tried two new dishes.  Firstly I tried bull - it was very earthy and almost had a touch of liver about it.  Very nicely cooked though I will happily ignore it on future menu lists.  And then patatas sevillanos, which was a gorgeous dish of potatoes, spring onions, chives, some kind of sauce - and then a chunk of tuna oddly placed on top - as you do...the Spanish are bloody weird at times.

For the final day, I wanted to do something cultural, have some chorizo, some churros and some flamenco.  I didn't have much money left so that was a factor in my decision making - for when is it not?!

I started with a small plate of chorizo and fried eggs.  Quite why it was so hard to find chorizo in Seville, I never found out.  And I wasn't that impressed with my decision making - I could have made this back home in England.  What was I doing?

I tried to make up for this by finding some churros - my Spanish amiga raves about them - I think I have had them in England once, thought there were rubbish but assumed that was because I had bought them from Nando's or whatever chain hole it was.

All day I looked for them, but nada.  Then I remembered that the oldest bar in Seville was supposed to be the best place.  I went in and asked in my best Spanish.  He didn't understand me.  I typed "churros" on my phone and he barked back at me, "no".  OK...

But on the street corner near my house, there was a little takeaway stand.  The not so attractive Spanish lady serving me was very efficient.  Alas, the dreadful churros I had in England were far superior and I ended up throwing them away.  The chocolate they came with was particularly naff.  I blamed my decision making process again.

Churros are shit.  Do not be fooled by Spanish people telling you otherwise.

Thankfully, my decision making process was spot on for which cultural visit to undertake, for Alcazar was rather wondrous.

A sprawling palace with very large grounds, I found myself getting completely lost on a few occasions - once in a maze which I decided to enter, believing that it wasn't really a maze and then getting stuck.  The peacocks found their way out quite easily by going through the small gaps at the bottom.

It was a truly beautiful place and where the King & Queen of Spain stay now when they visit Sevilla. I could have spent hours in there but I fancied a beer so off I went to sit, read my book again, and watch the world go by.  Or watch Spanish women cycle by.

I ended up a little tipsy that night and decided to have a steak.  Not exactly especially Spanish but hey.  It was good but nothing I'd not had before - and by this point I was relying on my card to pay and of course it wouldn't.  I feared a stint of washing up but managed to find a working cash point at the third attempt.

That will have to do you.  I started writing this when I got back which was a month ago.  And have only just finished it now.

By the end of the visit I was properly enchanted by Seville.  I loved all the cute little roads and how close everything was - rarely did I walk down a road twice.  I liked the laid back atmosphere, yet there was still a vibrancy.  It did almost have a cool Californian feel to it in places, with lots of people cycling, skating and rowing - yes on the river there were loads of people in canoes and kayaks, every single time I went past.  Yet I only saw one gym.  I did see a few fat Spanish women.

It even has a music scene.

Alas, I didn't make it to a flamenco show.  I considered buying a flamenco dress apron for a giraffe, but as I live on my own and use water and soap to clean my hands instead of aprons, it would have been fairly pointless.  It was enough to amuse myself at the thought.

I know a flamenco dancer in the UK anyway - albeit she never invites me to her shows.  I may have popped the myth about Spanish women being exceptionally beautiful too - or maybe I just expected too much from all the beautiful women in Ibiza.

The food was good but not brilliant - it was gloriously cheap over there though.

Seville is definitely up there with my favourite cities that I have ever visited.  Not quite in the must-visit category with Berlin and Barcelona - but in the secondary category.

I did really, really like Seville.  And there were even a few people with mullets there.  Modern mullets - like mine.

Adios.  Next up for me on my travels is Madrid, in April, for my father's retirement.