Tuesday, 16 January 2018

I Can't Get No Sleep and other trans-atlantic faux-pas.



Part 2 – I Can’t Get No Sleep. 

1.      Night 1 in Chicago was a blur. I had totally balls’d up the Business Lounge etiquette by drinking as much as I could on the outward flight which meant that my introduction to the land of dreams was marred by my vicious afternoon hangover. I certainly had not fulfilled my vision of skipping off the plane onto the US tarmac with a flashy grin and jazz hands. I’d waited 30 years for this and I messed it up by getting pissed. We got to the hotel and I can remember a few things before I went out for dinner (short lived) and then retired to bed.
a.      I chucked my massive rucksack on the bed (I will go into more details about my choice of luggage later) with such weariness that it rolled over twice and fell off the other side. This made me feel more crestfallen because the food I’d stolen from the airplane would certainly be squashed flat now.
b.      I tipped all my worldly items onto the floor and left them there for 2 days. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the pile of clothes and cables for while and wondered how I would 1. Get it back into the rucksack the following week and 2. How much of it truly need hanging up 3. Why I stole butter from the plane.
c.      I had a shower and sang “We’re the kids in America” in it. I never sing in the shower but I was trying to psyche myself up into party mood. It wasn’t working. The water pressure was terrible and the temperature was worse. The water never got beyond luke warm. I wonder if it was something to do with lawsuits.
d.      I got dressed into a crumpled-up dress and sat on the edge of the bed again. I felt very far from my family but tried not to think of it.
e.      We went out to a nearby bar. I walked through the streets -it was nighttime – and there were lights EVERYWHERE. All different colours, sizes, all flashing. Big grates in the pavement, the smell of beef fat everywhere. Excellent smells in fact.
f.       We got to a bar and our pals where there. They were all chipper and hangover free. I had a glass of wine and tried to take in my surroundings but nothing was registering at all. I was totally beat. In my last attempt to perk myself up, I ordered another bottle of wine, took a sip, and then walked back to the hotel.
g.      I got undressed and saw Trixie, my daughter’s toy cat, in the rubble of my rucksack clothes. I took a photo of her against the skyscraper littered window (the view was tremendous from a high-rise hotel) and sent it to my kid at home. Trixie and I then went to bed for an amazing, sensible and well-deserved night sleep. It was around 9pm local time.
2.      I woke up at 1.10am. I was wide awake. WTF. I need more sleep. They had all warned me about this. Luckily, my hangover had vanished but I knew I couldn’t sit up all night and work the next day. I laid there for about 4 hours and then switched on the TV. Trixie and I watched King Kong Island or Island of Kong or something for a little while. I hung up some work shirts and farted about with my phone. There was a posh coffee maker in the room, with coffee pods and stuff, so I made some hot choc.  I decided to scope out the room and opened all the drawers and cupboards to see if there was any swag. There were some nice gin stirrers so I hid them to see if they would be replaced tomorrow. I went back to bed and laid there for another 3 hours. What’s App’d pinged and all my UK pals were all up staring at the ceiling too. We met in the cafĂ© next door for breakfast. My boss couldn’t wait to show us this place. It was legendary for massive portions and he was getting all excited. I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect but I did know that, despite my tiredness, I need to sample some awesome US food. I clocked up that I had had 5 hours sleep over a 2-and-a-half-day period. It was like having a new-born again. What I forgot to mention is that this was a Sunday, the first day of our exhibition, and our long-awaited Customer Party in an Irish Bar was THAT VERY NIGHT.
3.      The on-going lack of sleep was notable. I remember everyone telling me that this would happen. I remember listening with secretive glee that this insomnia and sleep deprivation would not affect me as my children were terrible sleepers for many years. I was used to “getting on with it” on very little kip indeed. I was certain that the Insatiable Insomnia of Illinois would not much impact my week. I was wrong and they were right. It was a killer.
4.      The Breakfast. The menu was indulgent, but I didn’t appreciate what my boss was saying until it arrived. I ordered Scrambled Egg with Ham served on a Hash Brown. It’s more than I would usually eat for breakfast but sounded low key. What actually arrived was 4 eggs scrambled with bits of ham in, several rashers of very crispy streaky bacon and 3 crushed and deep-fried potatoes. Not 3 pieces of potato – 3 whole potatoes.  It was bloody lovely but really a dinner rather than breakfast. I ordered an orange juice too and the waitress brought me out a glass that was at least 2 pints. I couldn’t stop myself stuffing my face and knew, on top of all that booze the day previously, that this would cause stomach repercussions at some point. Miraculously, I arrived at the exhibition with no mishaps in this department. We were all tired but excitable to see all our UK peers, partners and corporate chums at the exhibition. We made a sensible note that we would have an hour’s kip before our big shindig that night.
5.      We didn’t. We had a messy night, lost lots of people and squeezed seven adults into an unlicensed cab for a 300metre journey. I had another 2hours-15mins sleep. During this spat of insomnia, I opened up the cupboards again and saw that the gin stirrers had been replaced by a travel sewing kit. This prompted a sensible thought in my head about my rucksack.
6.      I don’t like suitcases much. They are heavy before you even put anything in them and they don’t squash into gaps. I also don’t like weaving in and out of them in train stations when people insist on using the pull-handle bit. It pisses me off actually. I had a couple of trains to jump on before I arrived at Heathrow for my flight and need something that I could carry and slot into luggage racks without too much problems. As I had hand luggage (laptop bag), I used a really large sports rucksack to contain all my clothes. I had used this many times and it was very reliable. My back hurt after putting it down but on the whole, it was good to be hands free on the tube. This rucksack is quite old and belonged to an uncle of my other half. It has seen better days and I had overpacked it in a rather irresponsible and over zealous fashion. On the second night, I inspected my ruck sack to see that the seams had popped open in 2 places and there were now 2 large fraying holes. I shoved my fingers into them to see if they would further open under strain and they did – a lot. I didn’t have a spare suitcase for my return trip so I was a bit screwed. Especially seeing as I would probably end up taking more stuff home with me on the return trip – like the posh coffee maker. I kept the sewing kit in a safe place for using later in the week and made a mental note to buy a proper suitcase like everyone else when I returned to the UK.
7.      The rest of the week carried on like this – late nights, lack of sleep etc. There were some high points with colleagues – the Hancock Tower was lovely; we had ditched the corporate stuff and spent time with our own team instead. This was a great opportunity to wind down and chill the hell out. This didn’t happen. We had another 4am finish with a telling off from some bar staff for sabotaging their bar feature with a business card and topped it all off with the swansong of a US dinner - a kebab with tons of pickles and chilli on. It was delicious.
8.      It wasn’t all about the beer. We had committed to a charity fun run on the Tuesday morning so we had a sensible night on the Monday. We really did succeed in this. We were particularly smug that we were seemingly the only UK vendor to commit to this race and we purchased witty corporate t shirts accordingly. We (I) didn’t read the small print on entering and saw that it was a 6.30am start. We had to get up at 5.30am. To run 5k in winter along Lake Michigan in the dark. All for an event tshirt and a manic photo.
9.      And boasting rights, of course. Nobody could believe that we did it, but we did. We were really a team that day. In fact, one of our team was so euphoric that she signed up for a marathon the following month. I pondered if a 10k might be more fitting but she is a gutsy bird.
10.   One night, when I was getting ready to go out, I stood at my hotel room window and looked out at the city. I was on the 27th floor so had a good view. On the opposite side of the street was a block of residential apartments. It was only about 80metres away and was well lit, so you could see in every room. I saw an older guy sitting in a reclining arm chair watching TV. I couldn’t see him very well due to the distance but the general bagginess of his body implied that he was of OAP age. I doubted he could see me – I was in a big hotel block surrounded by other lit rooms and I’m sure that I would go unnoticed. I waved at him. I saw him cran his neck. I waved again. He then lifted his arm off his lap and proceeded to wave back in the most unenthusiastic, slow, laboured and lethargic greeting that I have ever seen.
11.   The final morning I felt very delicate indeed. Again, hardly no sleep and a sweaty attempt at sewing shut the holes in the rucksack. I had an hour to kill so I walked around the streets for a bit. I needed to find some carbohydrate to put in my mouth. I bought my sister a fridge magnet and saw an H&M across the street. I entered the store, which was empty of customers, and walked around to look for trendy American apparel. I knew that I needed a rest – I felt like I was in an elevator the ground was moving beneath me. It was really quite disorientating. I walked straight into a mirror because I thought it was another room. How I didn’t see my reflection, I don’t know.
12.   Just before leaving for the airport, I gave my packed rucksack the once-over. It didn’t look great. I couldn’t take home any swag and my new H&M stuff had to be worn on my person all at once because there was no room left in the bag. I didn’t see how it could survive being manhandled by airport staff and I knew that it would arrive on the conveyor belt back in Heathrow in pieces, with all my underwear strewn all over the place for everyone to look at. What worried me most of all was that Trixie might fall out.
13.   The flight home was not as fun. Christian wasn’t there for starters. Nobody wanted too much to drink. I obviously had the complimentary glass of champagne/fizz when I arrived on the plane and that was it. My boss and I were sat next to each other without the plastic wall between us so we set up a little cinema area. We synchronised the movie (Snatched) to play at the same time so we could watch it together on our respective TVs. We saw the funny bits at the same time and this was good. A plate of posh grub came out and I got confused with the order of it all and ate my pudding (it didn’t look like a pudding to be honest) first. My boss thought this was immensely funny so I didn’t tell him that I had done this on the outward flight too. I was very happy to have this retractable bed thing. I was looking forward to resetting my health and wellbeing levels with a great 8 hours sleep on the trans-Atlantic home.
14.   There was so much turbulence that I didn’t sleep at all and fretted for my life for the last half of the plane. Everyone else was asleep and nobody was grasping the depth of the problem of this unstable and malfunctioning aircraft. It’s quite hard to sleep with your shoes on too. I pondered eating the catering size bag of pork scratchings that I had bought at O’Hare airport but resisted because I really wanted to show them to my kids.
15.   The aircraft, passengers and offloaded rucksack survived boldly but the contained Twinkies did not.
16.   I arrived home and was collected from my local station by my other half who had done a STERLING job of holding the fort all week. He was clearly pleased to see me and there was nothing to do when I arrived home. I shoved my bag in the corner and laid in my daughter’s bed with Trixie and fell asleep instantly for 3 hours. I collected the kids from school and they ran at me like something from the movies. My oldest cried “Mum’s back from holiday!” which made the teacher raise an eyebrow as if I was this flitty mother who would go on holiday without my family. I tried to mouth “work! I was at work!” at him but the judgement had been done. I vowed to show him the following week that I was a good sort so on the Monday, I brushed my daughter’s hair and put it in a pony-tail, thus affirming my maternal skills.
17.   I was very happy to be home and I had had a brilliant time in Chicago. We could learn a thing or two about their front-of-house customer service, that’s for sure.
18.   I have a brand-new with tags skater dress from H&M that I cannot remember buying but it doesn’t fit. Size US6/UK10 with labels. Get in touch for pics.


NB: Suggestion for the US Department of Transport. You don’t need the word “Don’t” in Walk/Don’t Walk for the pedestrian crossings. You just need to illuminate the word “Walk” to alert people to cross and turn it off when you don’t want people to cross. This will save quite a few light bulbs in the word “Don’t” and significantly reduce electricity usage in signage across your North American traffic control networks.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

This is what happens when you finally arrive at your dreamland

I went to the States recently.
Now, lots of people have been to the US and this was a first time for me. It seems entirely prudent to relay the sheer worth of this trip from an emotive perspective in order that this JessObserves is understood and I don't look like a wet-eyed moron. Although this was a work trip and certainly had commercial value (I won't go into that), the venture to America was a big deal for me. I've wanted to go to the USA all my life. I'm nearly 38 and have visited some obscure and oddball places but never been to the most powerful, and maybe, infamous country in the whole world. America means something amazing to me - it always has. I grew up in the 80's where big-screen movies were everything, special effects were becoming something wonderful and American tech, music and fashion were something that only a country-bumpkin like me could dream about. American people were made of stardust and I think even their skin looks different. I’ve often wondered what they smell like. The country seems out of reach, plated with solid gold, and entirely made of magic.
Last month, I was given the opportunity to visit this place for a week. This is what happened.

Part 1: The Flight.
1.     Drinking heavily on a flight is a really good idea. There was just one downside which I will go onto later. When you are granted with a posh seat in the plane (this, again, was virgin territory for me, and again, I'll go onto this in a min) you get to go into a special living room at the airport to relax your weary body and look at other people reading newspapers. Most people in this room have proper hairdresser'd hair and wristwatches that are not plastic. Some of them are reading massive newspapers and there are no children. This is the Business Lounge where travellers retire to, I imagine, to do lots of business or prepare for the business that they are travelling to undertake. In order to physically prepare them for this business, free food and drinks are displayed around the perimeter of this lounge for guests to take. I don’t think you are allowed to take them home – I think you are supposed to consume them in the lounge as there was no option for doggie bags or such like. This is what you could choose from at 09.05am on a Saturday morning: Egg in a roll, Bacon in a roll, coffee, tea, wasabi peas, rice crackers, toast, jam, mixed nuts. The choice was simple but certainly enough. In fact, I had left home so early in the morning to get to Heathrow (train via London), my stomach felt very sensitive, vulnerable and a little churned up to partake in all this free food.
2.     There was so much gin and wine that I could hardly think straight. This was the most wonderful treat so I had loads. I also had a can of Heineken that was one of these stubby tins which you only really get on planes. There just wasn’t enough time left before having to go to the departure gate to sample every free drink.
3.     I embarked the aircraft feeling very good indeed. A little cocky about the impending flight (I’m a nervous flier so this is a good thing) and a little embarrassed at going into the posh bit of the plane. I certainly am not cool enough to sit here. I felt that the cabin crew were looking at me quizzically – like “who’s this chump?” and my plastic Casio was burning into my wrist like an electronic tag. I thought I had one of them guffaw but they have been the chair complaining at the Russian lady sitting down next to me.
4.     The cabin crew came around the posh bit with a tray and some drinks on it – champagne (it could have been cava, I don’t know the difference) or orange juice. I obviously didn’t have any orange juice and instead committed to becoming more dehydrated. One of them winked at the other one across the aisle and sneaked a little nod at me. They think I didn’t notice but I did, Gemma! At this point I wondered where my bag was; I had entered the aircraft in such a dizzy starstruck tizz that I don’t know what I did with it. I don’t know if I said this out loud but the cabin crew guy near me (Christian) pointed at my overhead locker and smiled. At this point I decided that I should not have too many more drinks because I was losing stuff already.
5.     The flight took off and I spent the next 8 hours laughing my head off, getting really drunk, having a “who’s got the best music on their iPod” competition with my boss, discussing a draft of our Business Plan (which turned out pretty good considering), debating whether to buy any duty free, forgetting I wanted duty free, remembering I wanted duty free, being “sssshhed!” at, trying to find our other colleague who was sat away from us in a “I’ve loshhhed my fweeend” dribble, spilling drinks and trying to manoeuvre the posh chair/bed into a sleeping position. This was particularly notable because, after some tugging, pushing and a lot of grunting, my boss peers over at me (we were separated by a plastic wall with a small slide-down window) and tells me that the chair-bed is electronic and is operated by a button on the wall. This button was located right next to my face to so don’t know how I missed it. You only have to press it and the chair slides forward, meets another seat-thing on the other side of your area which in turn makes a flat bed. Anyway, my self-assembly of this chair bed was totally in vain (and certainly enhanced my uncoolness to the cabin crew who were all looking at me from the kitchen bit) as it was totally electronic and needed no intervention from a stupid Suffolk passenger. I felt a bit silly about that so announced that I was actually looking for my bag that I had lost on the floor.
6.     The relaxing on the bed thing didn’t last long because I saw someone at the other end of the plane get a tray of food. This is obviously more important than getting some sleep so I pressed the button to raise the bed into a chair and got comfy waiting for my plate of posh grub. Lovely jubbly.
7.     I notice that a small toiletry bag in on the floor next to my feed. It’s green and looks like there is stuff in it. I open it up and it’s a complimentary bag o’ goodies. In it is a lip balm, moisturiser, eye mask, and some ear plugs. What I really needed at this point was a glass of bloody water as I was starting to get a headache. I opened up the face cream whilst still trying to cran my neck to get a look at the food trolley down the aisle and the cream squirted out all on my trousers and some on the carpet. I rubbed it in the carpet subtly with my trainer. I looked behind me and Christian was there who was watching me. He was also preparing a trolley of food which I hadn’t even noticed.
8.     After Christian had thrown the tray of food at my head, I had the chance to look at the fare. It looked nice. “Salad!”, I said, and looked around my fellow passengers at what they were having. My boss said “didn’t you want that? Why did you choose it?”. Apparently Christian came around earlier and asked me what I wanted from the menu. I can’t remember this but even if I chose salad at 1pm I wasn’t in the mood for it at 6.30pm after 2 bottles of wine. I saw that the Russian lady had a rack of lamb and I tried to make eye contact with her to see if perhaps she didn’t want her lamb anymore and fancied salad instead. She ate her lamb though. My boss and I shared his Chicken Ratatouille and I don’t know what happened to the salad.
9.     By 8pm, I was starting to feel a bit jaded and Christian had retrieved me a bottle of water. My eyes were all dry and I had had enough of looking at the Business Plan  -which was now covered in red wine and dry-roasted peanut dust. We had only discussed 8 out of 30 pages because the iPod game got gnarly. We had not maximised this down time for business purposes at all. We were only an hour from landing and we were probably over the USA at this point. How amazing. It was mid afternoon over there so we had had daylight the entire flight.
10.  At this point, I realised that we had quite a boozy night ahead of us. Some of our colleagues were already in the states and one was arriving around the same time as us on another flight. We were due to meet them all in the pub in a few hours and I was already in the full burning midst of a hangover. And I was totally exhausted. That was the bad bit of drinking on the plane which I referred to earlier.
11.  The plane was landing. We broke through some cloud and I saw America through the window. It looked very beige. This was it. This was the moment I have been waiting for for 30 years. This time of magic is upon me. I am about to land in the United States of America. Oh my goodness!
12.  As we disembarked the plane, Christian patted me on the back and said “Have a great time in Chicago! Don’t worry about the kids! They’ll be fine with Kevin!” I don’t remember mentioning the family, but I must have done. The Russian lady turned around, nodded and smiled at me too.
13.  I got off the plane like a patient who had just had major surgery. I was a total mess – staggering all over the place, stale beer breath, wrinkled skin and no idea where my travel documents were and needing a massive wee.
14.  I cannot remember any of what happened after that. I do know that I didn’t stay out very late that evening.
15.  I did notice, however, that Christian was also wearing a plastic watch. 

Part 2 – “I can’t get no sleep” is on the way.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A Gym Wanker.

A gym account by a non gym person.

This is what you can expect to happen when you go to a (busy) town gym.

1. You'll turn into Frank Spencer. You literally trip over everything. It's as if you don a clumsy guise as soon you you walk in the door. No object or contour is out of bounds. The purpose of this shift in gravity is to make you look like an incumbent oaf in front of slender shiny people. This evening, I tripped over a single piece of stray gaffer tape.
2. The worst bit of tripping on something, of course, is that 48 people pretends not to have seen you.
3. Picture this. You are on a cardio machine that moves your limbs around in a propelled flailing motion. It is actually going much faster than you feel comfortable with and the reps per minute (or whatever) are actually quicker than your brain can process.  I don't mean that conceptually - I mean that my brain can't keep up with the machine. This brings problems when you have to do something else in the middle of this workout, like for example, take a swig of water or adjust the speed; as soon as you take your hand off the handlebars, you lose balance and one of your legs stops moving altogether. This looks a bit funny on a cross trainer/ski machine thing when both of your feet end up in one foot rest.
4. Picture this. Same cardio machine. Got a degree of motion and fluidity. It's going ok. But this guy on the machine next to you keeps looking at you. He is trying to make eye contact. I obviously cannot possibly look at him so I look straight ahead.  Now, there is not a single activity in which a human being partakes which involves them looking dead ahead for 30-mins. Suffice to say, this felt very unnatural and a touch unsociable.
5. I listened to some music during the workout. I haven't done this in ages so it made for a good time. However, being surrounded by people, vigorous activity and having one of your vital senses (hearing) blocked out by 90's thrash metal has its disadvantages. Particularly when you feel that there's a chance that you might need to blow off. You simply cannot do this. You don't know how loud it will be, there are people in close proximity, they aren't wearing headphones and the impact of your feet on the stepping machine may maximise the noise of the trump.
6. That's it for now. I might even have a shower there next time. That will make for some meaty obs.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Today's observations - wildlife extravaganza!

It was a Wildlife Extravaganza! On the telly on Wednesday night. Nothing unusual about that, one might say, but Wednesday’s animaux offering was so richly studded with broadcasted bullshit and hyperbole that it is certainly worthy of a mention. 

I know exactly how we came to watch River Monsters. I wanted to watch a film, he didn’t (in fact, this will be inscribed on both our gravestones) and after an angry flick-through the channels and a bit of huff-puffing from both us the spinning arrow landed on this programme. I admit I was initially intrigued. Despite it sounding like it was about fishing (Cue Robson Greene, elocutioned Teesside and pissed off South Africans), the word Monster pricked my interest with the hope that it could have some river-dwelling sharks in. I like shark stuff. The kids do too. We could potentially record it therefore and replay any cool shark attack scenes and gore before they go to school in the morning. 

River Monsters is hosted by extreme angler Jeremy Wade -a rugged looking sea fella – who travels the world looking for fishy legends and sea creatures of particular gore and interest. This week we were in Alaska investigating the disappearance of several locals and fishermen around a river. Nobody knew what happened to them and Wade reckoned he could offer some enlightenment by proposing that fish in the river had killed these townsfolk. 

Wade didn’t know which fish though – so the very basis of the programme was investigating the species of fish which lived in this cold river to see if any of them could be scapegoats for these missing folk. It’s worth mentioning at this point that these missing people may have just strayed from the beaten track and become lost in Alaska’s unforgiving forests and starved or perhaps fell in the water and drowned without being attacked by a fish. However, that makes for boring viewing so Wade and the fisherman of this Alaskan town looked for the finned guilty culprit in the river. 

We started with salmon. Not as in a “starter of salmon” as we know it, but as in the first in the firing line for blame was a King Salmon. This is a large fish (about the size of a pre-schooler) which is extremely ugly and has a hardened beak like mouth. Although pretty unappealing to look at, it didn’t look very dangerous and Wade’s prying open of its mouth to reveal some fairly mediocre teeth almost produced a collective “uh” on the riverbank. This fish could not have attacked or eaten a person. This fact was fairly evident so Wade concluded – obviously with a lot of careful thought – that perhaps the Salmon had hit the human with its tail which had caused the human to fall in the river and drown. The locals look at him with sympathy and one of them snorted. 

Next on the list was a Salmon Shark. Now this was a contender. It was the same as a Great White Shark, but slightly smaller. Fat, Grey and White, Pointy-nosed and big ole teeth. It looked awful. Google it, honest. This beast frequented this river often in the pursuit of big fish to eat. Wade and some crew took a fishing boat into the river to spot these sharks and before long (honest!) the boat was surrounded by black fins cutting through the water. “Has anyone been bitten by these sharks” asked Wade to a local. “Possibly”, the local replied reluctantly. No then. 
In an attempt to verify the shark’s ferociousness and in a brave plea to make the programme more interesting, Jeremy Wade donned a wetsuit, a bucket of fish guts and jumped into the rover. It was getting interesting. He slapped a few sharks across the chops with a piece of herring to see if he could provoke the shark into an attack.
After an hour or two, it was clear that the shark (which was bigger than Wade himself), was not interested. River Monsters needed a monster. 
They found one. The last suspect on the list. The potential murderer of several unassuming law abiding locals.  

The Pacific Halibut. I was starting to lose interest at this point. The Pacific Halibut is huge – the size of a large living room rug – and is entirely flat with these wobbly eyes that seem to be looking in different directions. It either didn’t have a mouth or it was very small. Wade didn’t bother to try and convince viewers that this useless and cumbersome piece of Plaice ate anyone. He proposed that the size of it capsized a boat which killed the blokes. 

River Monsters- worth watching. Just found out too that Jeremy was born and raised in Suffolk. Perhaps he is better off seeking the Alaskan killers here. A rabid Tench or a Chubb with a chip on its shoulder.  

Next on the box was Fierce by Steve Backshall. We love Steve. I wiki-d him after the programme and saw that he is a super stealthy and fit bloke with a lot of sporting accreditations and martial art expertise. Like Steve Irwin but with an academic education. In this programme he was seeking fierce animals of the world – a job right up Backshall’s street. 

A small and ratty member of the Crocodilian family, the Caiman was investigated first. This animal was not capable of ripping a grown adult to pieces and therefore dull so we will skirt over that one. 

Although the Electric eel could not either, it was a brilliant FIERCE contender. Movie footage showing it electrocuting a crocodile who tried to eat it. Steve and a couple of Guyanese river dudes found one beneath their piece of cardboard (boat) during the programme and one of the brave (or better informed) fisherman swashed the water around with his hand in an attempt to bring the eel closer so Steve could, presumably, pick the bastard up. 
The swishing around made the eel clear off anyway and Steve got to quiz the fisherman about his experience of the eel. “Have you been stung” he asked the bloke. “Yes”, said Paulo, not wanting to elaborate much more to this burly questioning prat from Britain. “What does it feel like, the electric shock” said Steve. “like an err, electric shock” said Paulo. ITV didn’t even bother censoring the eye rolls. 

Next, they captured a big Croc. They taped his jaws together in a rather civil and fair restraining order to allow Backshaw to talk to it up close. Backshaw got the camera to zoom in to the beast’s eyes to show its third eyelid and we got to see the icy glare of the crocodile that would like rip Steve in half. At the end of their taunting, all in the name of research of course, they removed the croc’s jaw tape and the crocodile remained still, jaw wide open and started hissing. I’m no reptile expert, but I know this is hostile behaviour. Stupid Steve got up even closer to it with his gurning face – pointing to the big open jaw and then pointing back at the camera. They must have all survived. There is a second episode next week. 


Monday, 18 April 2016

Today's observations: 17.06.2016. Non smug marathon post. Shit 'n' all.


Funny observations from the marathon: 

1. The Grappler: There are various points along the course where volunteers dish out  cups of water and sachets of energy gel. They held out handfuls of gels so we could take what we wanted and stuff them in our pockets. This is the weird thing. Everyone in front of me would run past the gel guy and grab as much as they could - without stopping. Of course, some fell on the floor and the runner didn't grab the amount he/she wanted, but instead of stopping to rectify this situation, he/she would instead grapple wildly with hands *whilst still running* to try to paw more gels. Obviously, by this time, the runner had ran past the gel guy but still kept his outstretched arm suspended behind him, with grabby flailing fingers - in reach of more gels. Just stop and take the gels man. 

2. Poo Queue:  Most chaps went to the toilet in hedges/grass verges etc. There weren't many toilets  on the course so it made sense. Therefore, if you had the misfortune to need to use the Portaloo whilst running and you had the double misfortune to be queuing behind a male then you could be sure that you had the triple misfortune of knowing he would be having a poo and you will be in the right after him. 

3. Gel Hell: There is a theory that energy gels add crucial sugars and carbohydrates to your system in a concentrated vital dose so that you may benefit from quick energy over a long distance run. This is one of these theories that I believe to be, not only true, but abused by the majority. We all know the rules about the timings, the "brand" trials in your training runs and the quantities which one should consume. The funny thing about race day is that everyone is in a panic and over eggs their energy reserves by slurping down vast quantities of this gruesome citrus drool as to avoid flagging by Mile 4. I did this. My Mile 13 I had consumed 6 gels. By Mile 14, I noticed.  See below. 

4. Spew-Spot: At halfway, my stomach felt odd. Like, painful. I'd eaten too many of these rotten gels. I'd only ever had 2 in any training run. I felt like a walking pick 'n' mix. Unfortunately for me, I was located in the busiest part of the race for spectators.    I scanned the street for a secluded intimate spot for a hurl. I knew that it would come if I wanted it to or not and I rather fancied making myself do it in a location of my choice rather than it arriving at its own free will, in projectile form, at an undesired point of the race (in front of the photo guy, the water boy, or a child bearing Haribo). I couldn't find a vomit point anyway so I decided to slow down, have some water and not have any gels for a while.  

5. Cruddy Buddy: I get that running with a pal is cool and chewing the fat whilst pursuing your running dream is awesome. But it's really hard to get past you guys if I am running a tad quicker than you and you are taking up all the fucking space. 

6. Not you, him!: It's one of the ultimate faux-pax. The support around the route is brill. People are shouting your name (except for Zoe Ball, who shouted "Go On Jeff" at me) and their children are giving me some skin for a high-5. The crowd are rooting for you and your sore feet, your aspirations, your plight. It's so charitable - I'm a complete stranger and they want me to succeed. One lady and her little one was waving so madly at me, camera poised, leaning over to pat me on the back, a beaming smile on her face. She was so very encouraging. I reciprocated the goodwill and held my arms aloft, mouthing "thank you, thank you!" at her whilst making mock-grimaces about the amount of pain I was in. Anyway, she wasn't even doing this for me, she was doing it for her husband behind me. I felt like a right dick.

7. I can't get no sleep:  It's no laughing matter, not sleeping. Especially when you are so freakin' tired but cannot drop off. There are lots of tried and tested methods of falling sound asleep - some more orthodox than others - and when you have exhausted (ha!) all possibilities your race is in 7 hours, then it truly is a sad situation indeed. Such was my scenario on Saturday night that I even considered suffocating myself with a blanket with the aim that when I eventually passed out, some air would have filtered into my mouth so I would not die but would be instead be asleep. I didn't do this on the basis that if it went wrong, it would put a bit of a dampener on my room mate's weekend. 

8. "So take a look at me noooww...: here's a slither of positivity. The marathon run was an Against All  Odds achievement. There was no way I should have been able to do that based on how poorly and knackered I was that day. I'm afraid of sounding all dicky and brazen, but if you, reader, are ever in a right jam and don't think you can make it- think of this. The human body can pull the impossible out of the bag. Even for 5-and-a-half hours. 

9. I want to break free: One of the biggest fears about running long distance is needing a poo which, when your stomach has been bounced up and down for 2hours, resembles a poisonous vat of boiling acid pebbledash and you still feel ropey after having done it. Like it stained your tummy.

10. "I just met you, and this is crazy":Imagine one of these old black and white movies where 2 loved ones are romantically reunited on a train station platform. They run to each other in a love-fuelled ecstasy and sweep each other up in their arms in a beautiful embrace. That's what happens when you spot someone in a race who you have met twice before and only know their first name.  

11. Dead-man walking: When you take your trainers off after a marathon, your feet look the trotters of a dead person. My feet were grey and wet. I just needed a little white label hanging off my little toe with J.BALDRY typed on it. 

12. The beer afterwards doesn't taste as nice as you would think it does. And all the signs telling you that you can have cake at the end aren't that motivating. Nobody thinks of cake when their stomach is a pile of grated cheese in their abdomen. 

13. Fair weather friend: Even the hardest of atheists must surely mutter a holy plea at Mile 21. There's nothing like a long race that kickstarts my usually sporadic faith in the Big Man.

14. Are you there?: Similarly, you can also have a nice chat to love ones who are not  alive anymore. I felt very close to my Nan that day.

15. Star signs: Amongst the good and bad of Motivational Signs. Good: Hit this to power up! We are so proud of you! Thank you for running Brighton! Bad: You are nearly there! (Fuck off you fuck. No I'm not), You are making it look easy! (I'm going to punch you in the face) and the ever-insulting Well Done! (I'm going to punch you too you dickwad). 

16: Royal wave: the best thing I saw was a man/woman dressed as the Queen and waving people on with the Royal wave. It was brilliant. 

17. The best bit by far wasn't actually crossing the finishing line. That was a bit of an anti-climax. There were 2 best bits actually. The first was heavenly technology alerting your loved ones of your progress and knowing they were following you with tears in their eyes. The second was when one of your running buddies sends you some photos the next day that you didn't know he had taken. And they are good ones. And you realise that what you did was really clever and you didn't dream it. 



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