New contender for my most embarrassing moment…ever

Today I went bouldering at my favoured climbing centre. It’s the first time I’ve been for a little while, not for want of trying, but life has got in the way. I spent about 90 minutes bouldering, got very hot and sweaty and was generally very pleased with myself. I’ve talked a bit recently about wanting to get in shape, and this week I’ve achieved my goal of doing three different sports (running, cycling and climbing) which can only be a good thing.

So back to the wall. There I was, climbing up, down, trying, failing, trying again, failing a bit better. All good. I finished with the skin missing from the insides of five of my fingers. Signs of effort. Still good. I went back to my car with the intention of tweeting a triumphant picture of my chalky taped-up hands.

The moment I sat in my car I realised something was wrong. There was a bit of a hole in my (actual, proper, designed-for-purpose) trousers. I investigated further. Turns out that ‘a bit of a hole’ is the understatement of the year. I don’t know how I’d failed to notice it happen, but I was essentially wearing crotchless trousers. The hole ran from front to back, and was the size of, ooh I don’t know, a head. Generally I hate the word, but in this particular scenario ‘gaping’ really was the appropriate description.

I spent a moment assessing the situation. I realised that about halfway through my session I had heard an odd noise but must have assumed it was an errant fart or some such. I’d forgotten about it by the time I got to the top of the wall and gave it no further thought. That meant I’d spent the best part of 45 minutes with an enormous bloody hole in my trousers, in public, in the middle of half term, when the centre was full of children and in fact I’d sent a text to JG commenting that I’d never seen it so busy. Bear in mind that by its very nature, bouldering is an activity that takes place at (head) height and often with legs akimbo.

I realised that I had had some funny looks but I’d put that down to the fact that I only ever see criminally skinny, muscular, attractive people at the climbing wall and that I was probably getting a double-take as I don’t have the typical climber’s form. I guess everyone is not as shallow as I gave them credit for; they were actually doing the appropriate stare at someone who appears to have turned up at a family friendly activity wearing assless chaps. I genuinely don’t know if it would have been better or worse if someone had said something.

With my hands spread across my face, and staring through my fingers in horror, I realised that the shame was due to continue. I’d planned to have a shower when I arrived at work. This meant that I had to get from my car into the locker room (a substantial distance) without exposing myself even further. This was going to be particularly difficult seeing as the hole extended through the entire gusset (not often I have a legitimate use for that excellent word) and was pretty indecent from front and back. I tied my work fleece around my waist, held a bag in front of me and shuffled into work with baby steps.

I intend to spend the rest of the week a) hoping that I don’t end up on some sort of special register and b) purchasing a large sombrero and growing a significant ‘tache so that I won’t be recognised when I return.

.

Advertisements

The epic bicycle ride

Yesterday I set myself a bit of a challenge and decided to go for a bike ride. (On Wednesday I went for probably my first ride in 18 months, did about 12 miles, and was generally very happy and comfortable.) I wanted to do something a bit different so I consulted a book of routes. One of them went right past my house, was rated 2/5 (ie. easy/moderate in terms of hills) and was about 33 miles. The book said that anyone of average fitness could complete the routes in 2 to 3 hours (as you’ll see a little later, hello to below average fitness).

A few miles, maybe a little more, was off road. This is probably the first time that I’ve really got the benefit of having a cyclocross bike (basically a road-type frame with wheel widths about midway between a road and mountain bike). I also managed to break my 100% record of crashing whenever I go off road, which is something of a relief as that was becoming a jinx.

Just over halfway I stopped in a village to sit down, eat my snacks and properly consult the rest of the route. At this point I noted in the description that there were ‘3 appreciable climbs’…and that we hadn’t reached any of them yet. This was particularly troubling as I had personally appreciated quite a number of climbs already and wondered how hilly an incline had to be to get defined as ‘appreciable’.

I was starting to think that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was also conscious that because I was having to stop and consult the map so often, this was taking a lot longer than initially thought. Unfortunately I was about as far from home as possible and so there wasn’t much I could do as a shortcut. I was struggling to keep my self-talk positive; taking a shortcut felt like failure. I was comforted by the fact that I’d brought some money and if I saw a shop, I would buy some more snacks (I never saw a shop).

I did take a little detour from the defined route and ended up doing just under 30 miles out of the intended 33. Not bad.

I’m pleased. I had a nice time. For the most part I was in the countryside and there were birds and wildlife galore. I saw great views. I met some friendly ponies.

I didn’t give up. There were two hills that I cycled up and got slower and slower. Eventually I got off and walked (for one of them, to keep up the intensity I threw my bike over my shoulder and carried it up). I’ve done very little exercise in recent months so this is all heading in the right direction.

I am suffering a little now, and not even in the parts I expected. I had been drinking water from a pouch with a sucky tube throughout the ride and probably managed about 1.5 litres. I did manage another pint or so when I got in. However, this was apparently not enough and combined with the fact that I had a nice hot bath as soon as I got home probably left me pretty dehydrated. Within an hour I had a pounding headache and I went to bed at about 6pm, skipping dinner as I felt like I was going to chunder everywhere. I’m still trying to shake the last bit of headache off this morning, and coupled with the fact that I’ve drunk so much that I’ve been constantly needing the loo, I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep.

Still, there are a lot of positives. I went out yesterday and for over 3 hours I was exercising and getting fresh air (apart from the bit near the sewage works where I became a record-breaking breath holder). I inhaled loads of flies, including through my eyes. Think of the protein.

Above all, I did something and enjoyed it enough that I’ll do it again (but maybe not quite as far next time).

The day the trolls caught up with me

Just over a year ago, I had one of the worst days ever. What happened isn’t even that bad in the grand old scheme of things; I could definitely write you a list of even shittier things that have gone on within the last year. The point is, the other things that have happened were grade A shite: it’s therefore completely normal to be rocked and have to take some time to deal with it. This one, the big thing, pulled the rug from under my feet. It began with a photograph.

I volunteer with a local youth group for teenagers. It’s a bit like a more formal version of scouts. There’s uniforms. (This is me trying to describe it without basically just handing out the address.) After 6 months, they had a graduation parade to celebrate the end of their initial training. There were photos. Photos went on Facebook.

One of the other leaders was tagged in a photo that a member of his family took. Friends of that family member commented on the photo. Because I am Facebook friends with someone who was tagged in the photo, I could see their comments.

Now, I should say at this stage that it is not my favourite photo. It was one of those snapshots of a group where loads of people are taking pictures from different angles, you think you’re done, start to move off and then people are still taking photos. I think my hands are in my pockets, I’m mid-about-to-stride-off pose, my hair is being grown out of a short style and therefore looks ridiculous when you shove a hat on it and to top it off, I have put on some weight since this uniform was measured for me (and the tailoring is far from flattering). I think they’re the main points; I have no intention of looking at the picture to check.

The first comment I saw on Facebook was about one in the morning when I got home from work. I can’t remember it exactly but I’d been singled out and someone had said, “Bad uniform drills.” I went to bed and cried myself to sleep. When I woke up, I knew I probably shouldn’t look but I couldn’t stop myself. There were now six or seven comments, with laughing faces and the one that will forever stick in my mind, “What a disgrace.” I was absolutely distraught. Anyone looking in at the situation could have been forgiven for thinking someone had died. I suppose in a way, at that moment, something had. Every shred of self-confidence I’d previously clung on to had been annihilated in just a few sentences.

I was angry too. I wanted to shout that I’d spent my whole weekend working, and yet had got up with only a few hours sleep to iron my uniform, polish my boots and go to the parade. I had done the best I could and yet my best made me a disgrace. I stopped myself replying to their comments because I knew that it would become a rant and that I would probably explode in a shower of choice four letter words and concede any moral high ground. One thing I am definitely very good at is swearing, continuously and eloquently. I sent screenshots to a couple of friends, trying to put on a brave face, but also grateful for their outrage on my behalf. JG was an absolute rock when I felt like I would fall to bits at every and any moment.

In my efforts at self-preservation, I deleted the Facebook app. I was still the Facebook admin for the youth group’s page but I asked someone else to monitor it, citing short-term technical difficulties. For a few months I would access Facebook once a week from my browser, go straight to the group page, deal with any business and leave as soon as possible.

I told my friend and manager AA, who was supporting me through some other stuff. She asked me if she could contact the person who had posted the picture (and joined in the mocking) and ask her to delete the comments. I agreed, trusting that, unlike me, she would be able to send a reasonable request that was not peppered with swear words and insults. I didn’t want to know what was said, only if it was gone or not. AA text me later saying that she’d sent a message and the comments were going to be removed. I felt immediate relief. I had no idea what other comments had appeared since I’d last looked or how many other people had joined in.

It took a few days, but eventually I stopped feeling like the world had ended. It took quite a bit of help and gentle persuasion from JG to get me to go back to the group. Even now, whenever I wear that uniform, I am convinced the world is laughing at me.

I’m writing about it because this week, we had another group event. The leaders were in uniform. I got emailed a photo and immediately I am reminded of that terrible day. I should feel pride but all I can see is that my tie is wonky and I look fat. My mind has run away, wondering if everyone else who has received this photo is laughing at me and pointing out the flaws of the disgrace. I’m well aware that this may not have happened. But it could have.

Sometimes I’m glad it happened. I dealt with it and now that’s another thing I know I can cope with. But it’s also left me with scars, mistrustful, paranoid and shrinking. It was a reminder that the world is cruel and not to get too comfortable. I cringe whenever I see nasty comments – mainly about someone’s size or appearance – on the comments sections of public articles.

Just be more kind. To those you know and those you don’t. Remember that on the end of every mean, anonymous comment posted on the internet, there could be someone who is having the worst day ever.

A whistle stop catch up of my nerdy world

It’s been a little while since I last posted. Having had the best part of 3 weeks off work (gallivanting time, not sick) the last week or so has been a bit of a culture shock. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of a routine. I’ve been astonished to find that it’s time to get ready for work when I should be reading/drawing/sleeping/walking/eating*. (*Delete as appropriate.)

As it’s been a whole 6 days (basically a lifetime), here follows a quick round up of what I’ve been up to:

I’ve discovered Twitter. I used to have an account but I never really posted much or followed the right people and so I lost interest pretty quickly. I registered a new account, and shared my previous blog posts with appropriate hashtags, mainly as an experiment to see if I generated more views and followers. I have found that Twitter is a real time-eater for me this time round – I’ll look at one thing, then follow a link elsewhere, check out someone’s tweets and then before you know where you are, half an hour has gone by (and the rest). I’ve started following a lot of comic book writers and artists. Depending on my mood, when I see their work that they’ve shared I will either feeling inspired to crack on, or totally inferior and inspired only to give up.

One morning, I was playing a JRPG (Japanese role playing game) called Persona 4 Golden (P4G) on my PlayStation Vita. I’m not really sure why, given that I have very few Twitter followers, but I shared a photo with a screen grab of my game and a couple of relevant hashtags. It’s hardly viral, but when I had a load of notifications later, I checked back and found this:

This really surprised me. It turns out that (micro-)blogging goes much better when you stop trying too hard (much like my dating history as it happens).

Possibly this has happened because the PS Vita is a little bit…niche nowadays. It’s a great piece of kit, but handheld gaming has gone out the window a lot with the advances in smartphones. It is one extra thing to carry around but I love mine. I’m oddly proud that I’ve wasted over 78 hours of my life pointlessly playing P4G (and it would be much more, given the opportunity). I’ve almost completed it and I’m still undecided as to whether I will get a new game (I’ve thrown it out to the Twitters for suggestions) or just play the whole thing again.

I’ve done some drawing. Having seen the cards that I drew for JG’s birthday, my mum has been bugging me to do something for her (she already owns my only piece of framed artwork, and that’s because she framed it herself). I decided to do a trio of pictures for her birthday based on places that mean something to her in some way.

This is where we’re at so far. I’m really pleased with the castle; less certain about the other one. That said, I really can’t be arsed to do it again, so I think we’ll go with it.

I received Flat Earth Mike’s weekly list of new comic releases and released an audible, “Ha!” that there was nothing I wanted and therefore I’m definitely not addicted. Then I noticed the new Garth Ennis comic, gave up and went to the dark side. Today I went to collect my comics: SIX, which is obviously not going to be a world record, but given that I went in a week ago to collect my subscriptions, I feel that I may be developing a problem. Today I was put in charge of entertaining my in-laws while JG was at work. This meant I arranged a lovely historical trip to a town about 25 minutes away, which totally coincidentally is where the comic book store is. I haven’t read my new issues yet; I’m saving them for Monday when I’ll be home alone and not starting work until the afternoon.

I’ve become a devil-may-care Tamagotchi parent. Tonight my little pixel friend has had to go to bed whilst sleeping in his own poop (you can’t clean up once he’s fallen asleep). This is marginally better than two nights ago when I went out in a rush, forgot to swap him into my other trousers and came home to find that he had gone to sleep hungry and next to a poo on top of more poo. Note to parents: do not leave your child in the wrong trousers.

I think we are now largely up to date so hopefully I can do a new and riveting blog post in the next couple of days.

If you do want to check out my Twitters (I don’t want to ruin it, but it’s an awful lot like my WordPress) I am @ANerdRambling. Someone else is THE Nerd Rambling. Bastard.

Cheers.

I think I have too many hobbies

Hobby (noun):

  1. an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure;
  2. a small horse or pony;
  3. some sort of birdy mcbirdface.

Let’s ignore the second two definitions of a hobby, for I possess neither pony nor bird, small or otherwise.

By it’s very meaning (which comes from the dictionary according to Google) a hobby is done regularly. This is something of a contradiction for me. There are activities that I do, that I consider to be hobbies, but I don’t have time to do them regularly.

I’m very much an advocate of doing the things that make you happy, a large part of that being for mental health reasons. We all need to relax, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be done on a sofa. For some, the very definition of relaxing is running for miles on end. Knowing what makes you happy is a large part of battling depression and anxiety (in my very humble opinion) and getting back on your feet post-crisis.

In the last five years or so, I seem to have my finger in so many pies of interest that I’m considering whether I should give some of them up entirely in order to have time to focus more on some of the others. What stops me, is that I feel sad at the thought of not doing certain things – after all, they’re the chosen activities that make me happy.

About ten years ago I lived by myself and if there was one thing I did have, it was time. I don’t know how I filled it, apart from watching films and television. I used to think that if I won the lottery (a tall order seeing as I don’t enter it) I would still work as otherwise I would be bored. I vaguely remember having to write a personal statement/CV at school and really struggling to think of extra-curricular interests that I could list. (Wendy-cat has just arrived; she would like it known that her hobbies are definitely bird related.)

Nowadays, I could never go to work again and still fill every minute of every day.

I would read (comics, novels and popular science books), study, draw, write and illustrate my own comic, go bouldering, explore my beautiful county by bicycle, walk as far as I could up tall things, go to gigs by the metric fuckton and play my guitars at full volume. Some of those things I do whenever I’m not working, some I intend to do but don’t seem to quite fit them in as often as planned and some I haven’t done for a while but still crave. I consider all of the above to be my hobbies. I don’t want to give any of them up forever. (I already gave up my unpromising football career after my sick record at work went through the roof following perpetual concussion, broken and torn bits of body.)

I realise it sounds a bit like I’m moaning: far from it. I’m lucky to have a range of interests to pick and choose from. I just wish I had a bit more time to make the most of them all! (Wendy-cat wishes more birds would fly directly into her mouth so that she can also be more hobby-efficient.)

Being More Kind

The new Frank Turner album is called Be More Kind. I have quite an affection for Mr Turner’s words. His last album was called Positive Songs for Negative People. Although I generally listen to (and prefer) much heavier rock music, his words seem to catch me and sum up how I feel in a way that I never could. I quoted his lyrics a few times during my REDJanuary posts earlier this year.

But this isn’t really a post about music. It’s about being more kind. This is a sentiment that I’ve heard a number of times over the last 5 years or so, since I really started to tackle the issues with my mental health and take steps to improve them. One of the things that I was asked to think about, during CBT and counselling, was about treating yourself the way you would a friend. It’s really easy to be self-critical, and beat yourself up for feeling a certain way, or for feeling like you’re regressing, or for having an off day…the list goes on. But if you weren’t you, and if a friend approached you for help, describing those feelings, would you tell them to eff off, pull themselves together and tell them that they’re definitely failing for having a crappy day after working so hard to get on the right track? No. Of course not. You’d comfort them, tell them that everyone has a bad day and it doesn’t mean that all the good work is undone. You’d encourage them to do an activity that might make them feel better. I’m good at being kind to my friends. It’s only the last year or so that I’ve got better at being kind to myself.

Sometimes being kind to myself feels like I’m being selfish to my friends. I’ve come to appreciate that occasionally it has to be that way. Sometimes I can’t say yes to everything or maybe I can’t deal with meeting up right now, and that cancelling (and here’s the key: not feeling bad about it) is the kindest thing to do for myself right now.

That said, being more kind isn’t all about being selfish. It’s about judging what’s the right thing to do at the time. It’s a concept that we can expand on too. It’s not all about being kind to ourselves, although this is important. It’s about being kind to others, and the world we live in.

Recently JG and I visited the Green Britain Centre in Norfolk. It wasn’t ‘preachy’ but reading the information boards, I was inspired to make a few small changes to be kinder to the environment. I knew that meat is supposedly bad for the environment – mainly in terms of the fossil fuels used to transport it. However, at this stage, I’m not up for becoming vegetarian. Small changes though. Apparently if everyone didn’t eat meat for one day every week, it would make a massive difference. Obviously we are just a couple of people, but the attitude of “Well no one else is doing it so why should we?” doesn’t serve anyone. Welcome, therefore, to Veggie Thursdays (following on from Naked Wednesdays, which someone told me is definitely a thing). It’s a small change, but a step in the right direction.

Today I shall be thinking about other ways that I can be more kind.

Free Comic Book Day 2018

I almost missed out on Free Comic Book Day on Saturday 5th May due to planning a fairly last minute surprise weekend away for JG’s birthday. However, thanks to JG suggesting that we drop in if the comic book store was en route to her surprise, and FEM opening the shop an hour earlier for his subscribers, we were able to make it.

I have never experienced FCBD before, being a fairly new shop goer. From what I understand, it’s an international initiative, designed to entice new people in and sustain the trade. You get a couple of free comics from a large selection and during the day there were other special events such as cosplayers and artist signings/sketches taking place. We were there not long after opening time, so missed all of the events, but for my part, I was hoping to use the free comics to try something new and therefore put money back into the industry by buying into a series that I might not otherwise have discovered.

I asked FEM if he had any recommendations for my choice of comics. He suggested Barrier (which was the only mature rated comic of the free selection) and DC Nation #0. I did (probably a bit cheeky) ask if JG could have some free comics as well. I was thinking that she would probably choose the Doctor Who one, and was hoping that she might also find something she really liked. JG kindly chose two that she thought I would want: Howard Lovecraft Big Book of Summer Fun (because I’m a big fan of Lovecraft’s Cthulu stories) and Adventure Time (because I might have mentioned en route that I wanted it).

So, in no particular (OK, OK, it’s alphabetical) order:

Adventure Time

This is aimed at kids but I was mainly attracted to this by its front cover. I’m not familiar with the Cartoon Network series (being that I am much behind on television things, and have virtually no channels anyway). The title font, logo and cover image reminded me of RPGs that I’ve played – such as Persona 4 Golden on the Vita, and Pathfinder as a card game – and that just appealed. The art and story reminded me of Miyazaki films and the whole thing, whilst not revolutionary, was just very pleasing. Having done a search just now for Adventure Time and skimmed the Wikipedia page, I was interested to see Dungeons and Dragons and My Neighbour Totoro listed as influences.

Barrier

This is written by Brian K. Vaughan, who is also the author of the Saga series – something I haven’t read but would like to when I have time to catch up. In a nutshell, it’s a sci-fi story about immigration in the vicinity of the US-Mexico border.

The first thing I’d say about it was that it felt like a real free treat. Rather than being a very small sampler, this is a proper full issue comic (for FREE!). Like many first issues, I’m not 100% sure what’s happening or where it’s likely to go, but I’m intrigued enough that I’ll be adding this to my pull list.

There’s a few pages where whole conversations are in Spanish. From my point of view, I was pleased to be able to pick up the gist of what was going on. I could understand about three quarters of the dialogue (I knew A Level Spanish would come in useful for something some day) and after I’d translated it in my head, I went back and looked at the pictures to see if I could still follow it. The artwork is really good, and even if you couldn’t understand a word of it, you’d know what was happening.

JG read all of the free comics. She indicated that she was interested in this one, but that she would prefer just following up the immigration part without the sci-fi aspect.

DC Nation #0

This contains three sample stories – Batman, Superman and Justice League. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I’ve read self-contained Batman stories such as The Killing Joke but I haven’t felt able to jump into the long running series as I wasn’t sure if I’d know what was happening.

At the end of each sample, you were told to follow this story up in issue X of Y, coming out in June. This worked really well for me. I enjoyed the Batman story (all centred around The Joker) and Justice League enough that I think I’m going to try their regular series out and see how I get on. Superman…meh, I’m not a Superman fan anyway and this story wasn’t strong enough to get me remotely bothered.

Howard Lovecraft – Big Book of Summer Fun

This was basically three stories about the young Howard Lovecraft AND a rather random ‘The Steam Engines of Oz’. The Lovecraft section was almost a story in a sentence. There was little substance, but it was fun in a slightly bonkers way. I liked it, because I liked the appearance of Cthulu. As you can see from the photo, I also treated myself to a book of (original) Lovecraft stories from a little independent bookshop, with an essay about his life and another about supernatural horror in literature. Yes, yes, yes.

I skimmed through the Oz section of the comic so quickly that I could not tell you a single thing that happened in it – it didn’t remotely pique my interest. There was also a short ‘Intrinsic’ strip called Grade School Guardians. This bit was very simple, but I liked it. The strip gave me the idea that if I want to draw a comic, maybe this is where I need to start: something short and basic rather than a 300 page illustrated opus.

Bottom line: FCBD was (for me) a success – hopefully it was also a triumph for the store. Flat Earth Mike is clearly the king of recommendations and Barrier, Batman and Justice League will be getting added to my subscription list.