Generation Iron: The Weird World of Body-Building

Football is one of the most watched sports in the world and it’s easy to see why; when a game is good it’s mesmerising. The ball seems to flow from player to player as they dance around each other, juggling the ball with only their feet and charging around a pitch for 90 minutes running an average distance of 7 miles per game. Whatever you think of the game, you can’t deny that these are incredible athletes with a huge amount of dedication and who train for hours a day to play like they do. Similarly, sprinters train to be faster than everyone else, snooker players train to be the most accurate, high-jumpers to jump the highest. Body builders train to be the biggest. When you say it like that it sounds like any other sport but this is the only sport I can think of where, when you enter a competition, you don’t do the thing you have spent all day, every day doing in order to get there. It’s like playing football for 5 hours a day then going to a match and having all the players stand around taking it in turns to hold the ball in a way that best shows off their legs. Or playing snooker for 5 hours a day so that you can show all the people in the audience how exceptional your thumb arch is. Even weight lifters lift weights at the Olympics.

I think most people are probably a little weirded out by body building. I don’t mean going down the gym and throwing a few weights around, I mean the proper, hardcore, steroid-using, 3 inch thick veins popping out everywhere, strutting around a stage in too much tan and a thong that your missus lent you kind of body building you occasionally see on the glossy front pages of those magazines you always walk straight past in WH Smith. You might have picked one up once or twice to gasp and make disgusted faces at but really, that’s probably all the thought you’ve ever paid towards it. Enter Generation Iron; a documentary by Vlad Yudin, a 32 year-old Russian film-maker with a feature film and two documentaries about rappers, Big Pun and Twista under his belt.

The documentary takes place in the run up to the Mr Olympia 2012 competition where the most jacked, freaky muscle meat-heads in the world go on display to compete for the biggest, most symmetrical body while covered in enough fake tan to supply the population of Essex for a whole month. It is basically a modern day freak show, but where the players are there by choice rather than by whatever unfortunate circumstance life threw their way. It starts out as a modern-day Rocky story with the underdog, Kai Green, an artist of sorts who paints self portraits and poses in subways with a mask on, setting out to beat the current egocentric champion, Phil Heath. The former believes all it takes is “hard, hard work,” and the latter believes he has the added advantage of talent, whatever that means. It is hard while watching this to take any of them seriously I have to confess. They are, after all, doing all of this for aesthetics, and although people generally love to watch achievers doing whatever it is they do best, no-one really likes vanity. Their cause isn’t helped by the constant comparisons with art and sculpture. Schwarzenegger himself says at one point that “the only difference is that we in body-building use a certain machine to train the front deltoid if it’s missing … and an artist or a sculptor uses a chisel and a hammer,” but while the latter requires dexterity, and the talent and vision to create something from nothing, the former simply requires you to make bigger what is already there. There is no talent in having someone point out which muscle is not quite big enough and then sitting at a machine to work on it.

That is not to say that they do not work hard. These guys train in a gym 3 times a day for hours at a time and eat huge, boring meals 6 or 7 times a day usually consisting of some combination of egg whites, white fish, white meat, broccoli, rice, peanut butter and supplements. They make huge sacrifices to try and be the best at what they do, so in that respect they are not that much different from any other athlete, but you can’t help but think they are all troubled human beings in one way or another. Victor Martinez, who finished runner-up in the 2007 Mr. Olympia, lost his sister to a murder in 2009. Kai Green was abandoned by his mother, raised by several foster families and in and out of a juvenile facility before he found body-building. Hidetada Yamagishi was born into a strict Japanese family who never understood him. Branch Warren was born in Texas… One or two presumably didn’t have an interesting enough history to include their back stories so you never really find out why they are doing it, and this is where you start to see cracks.

The main problem is that this film is about the sport of body-building rather than the people that devote their lives to it. If it had been about Heath, and Green’s struggle to best him, then you have a story that follows in the same vein as documentaries such as Seth Gordon’s excellent “The King of Kong.” Had that film been about Donkey Kong the game as opposed to the struggle between lovable hero Steve Wiebe and total weirdo Billy Mitchell it would never have won as many awards as it did. Unfortunately Yudin just introduces character after character, many of them unexceptional, and who all end up saying the same things. He clearly has a deep respect for the sport since everything is presented seriously and without irony, but he somehow fails to capture the emotions of these men when they fail a competition or when they injure themselves. As a result you end up laughing when you should be feeling waves of sympathy. Case in point is when Branch Warren, the film’s most unlovable character, is sitting on his horse when the director says that “people think if you keep working out the way you do in the gym you’re gonna get injured,” to which he replies “the past two injuries I’ve had weren’t in the gym, they were outside the gym,” and then rides off before his horse promptly throws him off the saddle injuring his hamstring. When a documentary is done well, really well, that kind of thing is a tragedy. This was hilarious.

Ultimately the film left me feeling empty and unsatisfied, and that could be as much to do with the subject as much as the documentary itself. If you’ve never seen Pumping Iron and you’re even remotely curious about the weird world of body-building then I would recommend that over this – Arnie is on top amusing form. If you find Generation Iron on Netflix or something then it might be worth a look just so you can point and the screen and go “eww, look at that one!” Parts of it are interesting and informative but at 1:50 it could easily be 20-30 minutes shorter.

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Winter in Warsaw, Poland

IMG_4443 (Medium)Since my company changed its overtime policy earlier this year I seem to have ended up with rather a lot time off in lieu. At the beginning of August (after I’d just taken a week off to sit in Finsbury Park and read) my team lead took me to one side and said “Now look here… It’s August and you still have 25 days left. You need to start taking some.”

IMG_4446 (Medium)It’s not every day your team lead tells you to take holiday. So I did. One week every month for the rest of the year in fact. Thing is though, while I should be taking flights to here there and everywhere, there are only so many holidays a man can afford so for the most part I just sat around at home playing computer games and video-conferencing friends in far flung parts of the globe. I couldn’t face doing this again in December (no offence to my Skype friends intended) so I jumped onto a flight checker and searched for the cheapest flights to anywhere in Europe for a 3 night stay. First up… Warsaw, Poland. Three things instantly popped into my mind upon reading this:

  1. Joy Division (who wrote a song called “Warsaw” about Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy in the first half of the war)
  2. The Second World War
  3. Winter

The only images I could conjure up were of an emaciated Adrian Brody, walking across piles of rubble searching for scraps of food in The Pianist. I knew absolutely nothing of post-war Warsaw, or even Poland for that matter besides being told that there were apparently legions of hot raven-haired women and cheap beer. Both those things appealed to me greatly, but I am also deeply fascinated by WWII so I figured, why not? How cold can it really be anyway?

 

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My next dilemma was where to stay. When I went to Rome in June I picked the hostel with the best reputation for partying. This was fine on the first night because I just went down to the bar on the Saturday evening, made loads of nice people and went clubbing but the second night I had been out walking all day and couldn’t wait to just read a book and pass out. Not likely in an 8 bed dorm at the front of the building with the noisiest fan in the world, no air conditioning and an all-night party outside.

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I figured that evening, lying in bed staring at the ceiling while willing the snorer in the bunk below to choke to death on his own tongue, that I don’t actually need to do this any more. I’m not a penniless traveller trying to save money in every city I go to; I’m a working professional on holiday. The only reason I actually stay in hostels is so I can hang out with nice people while I’m away and in most places you can go to the hostel bar without actually needing to stay there anyway. So this time I booked a 4 star hotel, the Radisson Blu Sobieski, not far from the city centre. I had not one bed, but two, my own bathroom, room service, clothes hangers, a safe and a mini bar. Not to mention my own old man’s chair where I could sit, fingers on chin, and contemplate the day.

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The flight was delayed by 6 hours. That is a loooong time to be sat in Luton airport, believe me. I solved logic problems and tweeted to Wizz Air. They laughed. Only because I was trying to be funny though; I’m pretty sure they don’t usually laugh at their customers. Actually the only thing I could complain about were the other people on the flight and there wasn’t a great deal the airline could do about screaming children. I discovered a helpful little trick on the way back, however… They all go in the front. Pick a seat near the back entrance and the journey is blissfully quiet. There’s one for your little book of holiday tips!

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Once we touched down in Poland I walked off the plane into a snow-drenched airport and a blast of cold air that enveloped me like a bath of liquid nitrogen. It was then a half hour wait for a bus, an hour ride on said bus (while the driver attempted to compensate for the nitrogen bath by melting our faces off with the on-board heating), a short 10 minute walk and I was greeted at the hotel by Carsten, a friend of mine who popped up from Berlin for the night. It was midnight, so naturally we stepped out to find a club and ended up in “The Opera House,” a catacomb-y type place with red brick tunnels, red lighting, cheesy house music, a live violinist and beers for £2.50. It was free to get in and free to use the cloakroom. It was also warm. Oh so warm. Two Żywiecs and a Jägerbomb later and we were on the dance floor busting out moves that would make James Brown weep. With joy obviously.

IMG_4471 (Medium)Apart from this little escapade much of my time was spent chilling out, eating, drinking coffee and poking around the various districts of Warsaw. I also tried out my theory for infiltrating hostel bars, which worked a treat, and spent an evening playing card games with some new Polish, Dutch and Italian friends. Thoughts of the war prevailed thanks to the overwhelming number of communist buildings everywhere and the general look and feel of the place. Everything you look at seems to conjure up an image from one holocaust film or another, but then you walk around a corner and there’s a mass of steel and glass skyscrapers reminding you that democracy and capitalism did arrive after all. I bought a book on the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 to try and fill in some blanks, which was lucky because I managed to get flu on Monday and ended up spending the rest of the holiday in the hotel room.

IMG_4454 (Medium)A bit of a mixed bag then, this holiday. A good break from London but I’m left thinking that maybe I should just save up and go somewhere warm for my winter holidays. If for no other reason than to avoid catching a cold and having to spend another plane journey with head that feels like it’s going to explode every time I cough! I’ll save the European trips for the summer (ski holidays excluded obviously).

Ramble On

It’s been a while, I know. You could put it down to laziness, maybe writers block or even a lack of material but the end result is the same. I’ve neglected you, and I’m sorry. Way back when I started blogging in 2006 I used it as a way to keep in contact with friends and family while I was travelling around the world. Rather than just writing online letters with a few pictures thrown in I started to experiment with reviews and anecdotes for all the places I’d been. When you’re travelling around it’s easy to find things to write about that people will find interesting. Every day is an adventure, or a potential disaster, and both make great reading material (with the latter actually always offering more laughs). Likewise when I was living in Japan, there was simply no end to the amount of material available, I mean, seriously! Train men that randomly point at things for no apparent reason? Builders that dance together in the morning and then wave mini-lightsabers at passing cars? Chicken testicles on sticks?! That place is a blogger’s treasure trove!

England though. I love the place, really I do, but it’s totally and utterly normal. All two of my readers live here already and the discovery of cultural insights that people don’t already know about is tough and, well, basically the domain of professional stand-up comedians.

What does one write about then? Politics? Dry. TV? Never watch it (unless you count the 72,000 episodes of the latest series of Masterchef: The Professionals or the continual onslaught of Grand Designs and Man V. Food repeats). TV is just something you have on the background while you’re eating so you can avoid having one of those “conversation” things and besides, Charlie Brooker’s got that locked down already.

At the beginning of this year I played with the idea of doing a different challenge every month and actually, January 2012 was probably the most productive month of my whole life; I learned 500 kanji, a couple of hundred Japanese words, drank so much green tea that I anti-oxidised the air around me wherever I walked and got back into weight training after my broken hand had finally healed. As with so many New Year’s Resolutions though, the idea was dead by February. You don’t realise how difficult it is to do the same thing every day until you do it, and then you feel like it’s the only thing you ever do, even if it’s only an hour or two every day. It also serves to show how much time we waste sitting idly around watching TV or surfing the Internet.

That pretty much takes me right back to where I started – travel – and with my fateful trip to Italy earlier this year, a recent trip to Poland and a bout of flu preventing me from doing much besides lying in bed reading, heating up some Heinz Cream of Chicken soup or staring at a computer screen, you can probably expect another entry or two in the next couple of days.

Japanese: A Quick Overview

I am placed in a rather unique situation at work (for England at least) whereby there are something like 9 different languages spoken in our team of 10 people. There are, in no particular order, speakers of Urdu, Arabic, Gujarati, Greek, Swedish, Japanese, Russian, Belarusian and a Nigerian dialect of English. I may even have missed one or two. Certainly in all the English-speaking places I have lived and worked before most people will speak English, and only English; but that’s not to say that people don’t have an interest in learning other languages. People will often express that they would like to learn a language but they don’t have the time or the opportunity to speak it. I had always said the same. I even went on an Italian course 1 night a week to try and kick-start things but the only thing I can remember how to say now is “can I have a glass of red wine, please?” Useful, but hardly nearing the fluency required to impress a long-legged, olive-skinned Italian goddess with my in-depth knowledge of graphics cards and central processing units.

I failed at Italian because no-one had ever taught me HOW to learn a language and exactly WHAT to study and practice. Had I figured it out by going to Italy and being forced to learn the language I would have, perhaps, got much further in a much shorter space of time. But I wasn’t going to Italy; I was going to Japan, and I either had to learn Japanese or spend my entire year there confused and disorientated. As it happened I ended up doing both but, I hope, in a slightly less confused manner than I would have had I simply remained squarely in the expat bubble.

To those who have never studied Japanese, the written language is a mishmash of mystical symbols and pictures and the spoken sentence just an endless stream of syllables where no-one takes a breath for 3 minutes at a time. The notion of ever being able to speak it, let alone read it, is a monumental task that most normal people leave to the manga fans. Look deeper however and you will find that it is endlessly fascinating, constantly surprising and actually, rather logical in its construction. For those cunning linguists out there with a passion for languages in general, or for those who would simply like to know what all those mysterious little pictures actually mean, read on. American/Canadian readers take note, you may need to put on your best Hugh Grant impression when pronouncing the letters/words in bold so that you get the right Japanese-equivalent sound.

The Alphabets

Yes that is alphabets, plural. Four to be precise (well, 3 really but we’ll get into that in a bit) and you already know one of them:

  • Romaji (or the Roman alphabet to you and me)
  • Hiragana
  • Katakana
  • Kanji

This means that there are also 4 different ways to write many words. The word ‘bicycle’ for instance can be written (in the above order) as:

  • jitensha
  • じてんしゃ
  • ジテンシャ
  • 自転車

We’ll go into that in a bit.

Romaji

Yes, they all know and learn the Roman alphabet, but no that doesn’t mean they can read English (as I’m sure you will all know from reading the posts over the last year!). They use Romaji for a number of different things including, obviously, English words, but also for Japanese words they think just look cooler in Roman letters. When you see Japanese in phrase books, it will usually be written in Romaji because people don’t have time to learn 3 new alphabets for a quick 2 week holiday, but you should note that this is not Japanese; it is merely to help you pronounce Japanese words using letters for which you know the sounds. For example the Japanese word for I or me; in a phrase book you would see it written as watashi where in fact the Japanese is わたし. Which brings me nicely onto…

Hiragana

This is the original Japanese alphabet and it differs from the Roman alphabet in that almost every single character contains a vowel sound*. For example, sounds like she (or shi as written in Romaji), sounds like na (as in nappy), sounds like ka (as in karen). So rather than have a load of separate consonants and vowels which you can then combine in any number of crazy combinations and sounds like in English, you have a set number of 1-syllable sounds which you then just string together to make a word.

There are literally only 5 vowel sounds in the entire language. Yes, I know we have 5 vowels in English but I’m talking about vowel sounds. Take the vowel, o for example; put it in the word now and you get more of an a sound than an o, but stick an s on the front – snow – and the sound completely changes. In Japanese this never happens. A will always sound like ka wherever you put it in a sentence,  will always sounds like na and will always sound like shi.

For an English-speaker learning to speak Japanese this is a wonderful thing. It means that you don’t even have to listen to someone say a word for you to know how to say it; you just read the characters as you see them. For a Japanese-speaker learning English though, this gives them a serious handicap; try to get someone to tell you the difference between mood, mud, mode and mod and they will break down and have a fit there and then. Likewise, if you try to get a Japanese person to say ‘squirrel’ they will still be standing there trying 12 hours later.

Katakana

Katakana is used mainly for Japanese words that they want to ‘coolify,’ and for words that have been adopted from other languages, for example:

  • Coffee becomes コーヒー (pronounced core-hee)
  • Television becomes テレビ (pronounced teh-reh-bee)
  • Super becomes スーパー (pronounced sue-paah)

If you really listen hard, you can hear the English word behind it but usually only after you become trained at it. After I had learnt to read Katakana, Maria (another JET in my area) and I used to have to team-up to read menus; I would read them – very slowly – and repeat faster and faster until she could decipher the English word it was supposed to replicate.

I would understand its usage if they had never learnt the Roman alphabet (besides, who wants to learn Hiragana before you’re able to read, write and pronounce tsunami or karaoke?), but when they know how to read and write Roman letters it needlessly prevents kids from learning the proper spellings and sounds in English. All the characters look the same as well, for instance is shi and is tsu – both identical but for a slight change in the way they mock you as they grin outwards from the screen.

Kanji

These are the little pictographs that you’ve all seen in both Chinese and Japanese (the Japanese nicked them from China years ago), and if you’ve been reading my other posts recently then you’ll know that I am currently attempting to learn 1000 kanji before the end of the month. It’s not going very well but that’s one for another post. There are countless kanji in Chinese and Japanese though a common dictionary in Japan, the ‘Daikanwa,’ currently contains around 50,000. Luckily, only about 2 to 3 thousand are in common use in Japan. That is still quite a steep learning curve though, and if it wasn’t interesting I would have given up long ago.

Each and every kanji has a meaning. Sometimes one kanji will be be a word on its own, and sometimes it will form part of a word with other kanji. Take and for instance. means he/him/boyfriend, pronounced kah-reh, and means woman, pronounced on-na. If you put them together though – 彼女 – the pronunciation completely changes to ka-no-jo, and the meaning to she/girlfriend (in case you were wondering, the kanji for man is ).

How do you ever learn these? It really helps if you know the meanings of the individual kanji because you can often make up little stories in your head to help you remember what the word means – this is what I am doing at the moment. Sometimes though, you don’t even need to make up stories because it’s obvious from the meaning of the kanji alone. Remember bicycle? 自転車? Well  means oneself/itself means rotate/revolve and  means vehicle, so a vehicle that rotates itself is…? You get the picture. What you really need to do is learn as many words as you can in hiragana and then mass-learn all the kanji and their meanings when you think you’re ready. After that you can go back over all the words you learnt in hiragana and attach their pronunciation to the proper, kanji word.

Learning a foreign language has been a lot of hard work, but it has provided me with a great deal of fun, intrigue, and interactions with people I never would have spoken to had I not jumped into it head-first. If you’re one of those people who have always wanted to learn one then just start. Get a book and give it a go. You won’t regret it.

*The only exception to this is which is pronounced simply, n (by putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth and emitting a dull sound through your nose).

Failures

“If you’re going to make a mistake, then make it LOUDLY because then we can correct it and move on.”

That’s what my Dad used to say at choir practice, and it’s what I would come to teach my students in their first lessons with me at school in order to pull them out of their shells and keep them talking. I think it worked too. “Are mistakes good or bad?” I would say as they looked at me dumbfounded, likely scared that whatever they said in reply would be the wrong answer. Eventually they pandered to my little game and a couple of the more confident ones would say “bad,” to which I would reply “nope.”

“Mistakes are GOOD!” I would say, and then I would explain why very simply in English, and the JTE in Japanese, before attempting to build a relationship of trust, and an environment where people would not be afraid to at least try without fear of humiliation from their teacher.

I too have failed, and it wouldn’t be right for me to pretend otherwise but rather, to write it on the Internet for all to see lest I forget my father’s words of wisdom. My mistake lay in the goals I’d set myself for this month. They were, I now admit, a little far-fetched. I was a little high on life at the time and thought that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. But 31 days is a long time. A very long time. No milk, sugar, alcohol, TV, computer games, films, relaxation, or basically, ANYTHING FUN. FOR 31 DAYS?! What the hell was I thinking?! I was obviously MENTAL. However all is not lost. I haven’t just been sitting on my arse playing Mass Effect 2, stuffing my face with Burger King and binging all over London Town… Real changes have been made:

  1. I am eating much more healthily. Granted, I’ve had a couple of Dominos pizzas and a McDonalds but the rest of the time I have stuck to the diet. I have scrambled eggs for breakfast every day, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and beef jerkys for snacks, chicken salads for lunch and meat/fish and vegetables for dinner. I aim to keep this up for the foreseeable future, and I’ll occasionally throw in some junk food for fun.
  2. I am fitter and stronger. More like 3-times-a-week fitter rather than the 5 I promised but it’s a good start. I am running regularly for the first time since school and lifting more weight than I ever have before. I will continue at least 3 times a week (preferably every other day) for the foreseeable future. This is not a short-term thing – I am actually enjoying it.
  3. I’ve cut down on the booze. Only two nights of drinking in 15 days can’t be bad.
  4. I now know 384 kanji. Doesn’t sound a lot, yet consider this one on the right. It means “admonish” and takes 19 strokes to write. Imagine learning that and then doing the same for 383 equally complex kanji varying from “run” to “Decameron” (don’t ask). I’m not trying to impress… Only to try to help you understand the pain I am going through even without a whole 2 hours of study a day.

Oh yeah… That 2 hours thing? There is absolutely no way in hell that I could ever fit in two hours of study every single day. It is impossible. There are simply not enough hours in the day. I know I know, that’s the other kind of thing our Dads say but seriously, when we would just go “yeah yeah” and assume they were making up excuses for not putting up that shelf or descaling the shower head, they would be running around like a blue-arsed fly, permanently worried that all the things on their to-do lists wouldn’t get done. I could do 2 hours a day if I had a butler but I don’t – partly because I can’t really afford one but mainly because I could never convince one to come and work in Wood Green – so I am forced to forgo the excessive amounts of study in favour of not dying of starvation or wearing the same dirty clothes every day.

My **revised** goals for January then, are very simple: Keep up the diet and the exercise, don’t go overboard on the booze and learn 1000 kanji by the end of the month. Should be doable.

January Gymathon

If you’re reaaaaally clever, you may have guessed what this month is about from the title. Yes, New Year’s Resolutions (yawn). January is all about bettering myself. Shedding the fat and looking like Arnie, yes, but we’re also talking about the gym of the mind. Here are the rules:

  • Detox – No alcohol. Too easy? We’ll go one better. Shizuoka Green Tea and water are the only liquids I’ll be drinking this month. No exceptions… Bring it.
  • Eating – No carbs before a gym session. Only complex carbs after. We’re talking brown rice, wholewheat pasta and bread, sweet potatoes, pulses; that sort of thing. What does this mean? It means scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast every day, protein shakes (made with water) and nuts/seeds for morning and afternoon snacks, chicken salads for lunch and cottage cheese and fruit before bed. “Proper” dinner using whole foods only. No sugar at all, and no milk.
  • Education – 2 hours a day of personal education. What does this mean? Reading up on history, philosophy, sociology, economics, Japanese and anything else that takes my fancy. You get the point.
  • Sleep – 8 and a half hours of sleep every night. No more, no less. Yes this includes weekends, so no lie-ins. I’m not going to have a lot of spare time this month so I’m not going to waste it sleeping.
  • Gym – Every weekday. Yes you heard that right. Weight lifting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and High Intensity Interval Training on Tuesday and Thursday. What’s that? It’s where you sprint for 30 seconds, jog for a couple of minutes, sprint for another 30 seconds, wash, rewind, repeat for about 30 mins.

This is pretty brutal, so I’m going to allow myself some leeway when it comes to my social life. If I go somewhere for the weekend then I can obviously relax some of the rules around eating and education a little bit. Likewise, if there is a one-off event on a certain day during the week that I desperately want to go to I will allow myself to skip the gym and the education. I still want a life, I just want to make more of the spare time I have rather than waste it in front of the TV/laptop. The drinking rule is non-negotiable however.

After all that, any spare time is mine to do with what I will. Games, TV, tiddlywinks, writing blogs, skydiving.

If anyone else thinks they’re hard enough and wants to get involved, let me know. It’d be good to compare progress. For the rest of you, I will of course keep you updated, and if anyone in Japan fancies sending me some green tea supplies they’d be gratefully received!

Challenge Bobbika!

This time last year I was lying on a couch, dying from flu, freezing my arse off and scared to go out in case I broke my neck slipping up on the solid ice sheets lining all the pavements in London. I think back then my excitement for the coming year was dampened by the fact that anything would be better than what I was experiencing at that point:

Get up and walk 10 metres without worrying that the muscles in your legs are going to give way at any moment? 2011 IS AMAZING!

Eat your lunch without puking? 2011 IS AMAZING!

With short-term goals such as this, you might say that I missed the big picture. While I was concentrating on keeping my food down and wondering how the hell I was going to manage a 12 hour plane journey to Japan, everyone else was thinking about the year ahead, and all the excitement, joy, sadness, opportunity, love and conflict it would bring. That is what the first of January is for. You think they gave us a bank holiday to go down to Oxford Street and spend the whole day taking off 7 layers of clothing to try on a t-shirt, find it doesn’t fit, put all the layers back on again and walk into another shop, seemingly in competition with the last to see how high they can get their thermometer to go? To spend the whole day standing in queues watching everyone’s miserable faces as they attempt to convince themselves that the £10 they saved was worth it, getting angrier and angrier at the world and cursing every other person there? The banks are on holiday, but your account takes the biggest hammering it’s had since the last time you went abroad and took out €3,000 because you weren’t sure what the exchange rate was and anyway… It’s not real money, is it?

Personally I can’t think of anything worse than getting sucked into the sales, so I’m staying at home, wiping the slate clean and laying out my game plan.

And I’m excited.

“Does that mean you’re going to Singapore?”
“Nope.”
“Eh? I was sure you’d snap that up straight away.”
“I was tempted for a while, but for all the great things I’m sure it would have brought, you have to follow your gut feeling.”
“Scared?”
“Me? Never. It’s just too soon. I got back from Japan in August and spent a great deal of physical and mental effort getting a job and a place to live, settling down and seeing friends and family I haven’t seen for 8 months or more. Every time I see someone else I haven’t had a chance to catch up with, I put another root down into English soil; and I feel better about my decision.”
“Deep.”
“Yeah.”
“So what now? Isn’t this year just going to be 9-5 London living, watching TV, going to the gym, picking up your groceries and paying your taxes like a good little boy?”
“In part, yes, but I’m setting out some serious plans for this year, and I’m actually really excited about them. In fact, January is already in the bag.”
“Go on then.”
“Ok.”

My New Year’s Resolution is to set myself a challenge for every month. This could mental, physical, work-related, personal, serious, fun; whatever. I will try to make them interesting and I’ll note them down on Ramblin’ Man for your amusement along with the usual shits ‘n’ giggles you’ve become accustomed to.

So let’s get on with it!