Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tesco – you and I aren’t friends sometimes.

It was my birthday last week so I decided to take the day after off. Day after? Well, the day of you get your presents and your cake from people at work - and by God don't my colleagues know me:
And of course the day after you’re quite hungover. So it really makes sense. And this dear friends, in fair Clapham South, where we lay our scene. I needed breakfast. So, as I was totting down to Tesco to get my bounty I should have realised that mid-morning is not the best time to enter a supermarket.

The world goes from the frantic pace of 7.30am - 9am to a Thriller like zombie video, complete with shuffling and 1984 fashion trends, post work rush. And there's no better place to see this than the discount aisle at everybody's local Tesco.

Now you think a supermarket should be the easiest place to navigate. Up one aisle and down the other, selecting the goods you want usually right at eye level. Even lab rats have more of a challenge getting through a maze. But bugger me if it doesn't baffle people. And if you're moving at the pace 3 steps an hour, one would think you wouldn't need to turn around because you've forgotten something - you've had the whole morning to pick what you want!!!

Finally escaping the risk of death by supermarket frustration, I made my way to the self service section (insert love life joke here). And Tesco's new and confusing checkout systems looms. Not having enough faith in their customers to be able to identify items alphabetically, they've now gone down the track of  food group pictures, such as 'fruit' and 'onion, garlic & herbs'.

Now if you can't figure out how to spell potato, how on earth are you going to figure out to select vegetable - root vegetable - potatoes - and then there's several varieties ranging from red skinned to baked to mashing. And if you're the same person I walked passed that morning trying to pick the difference between .01% skimmed milk and're farked.

So as I was led to the door screaming 'a tomato is a fruit God damn you' I remembered that I was here for breakfast.

Now I thought I knew how to cook a normal breakfast. It’s a simple formula. Two parts eggs, three parts bacon multiplied by mushrooms and divided (on top of) 2 toast. Commonly viewed as:

2e + 3b/To + M 

But all this was about to change. I had a suggestion put in my head that very morning. And for those of you familiar with me, I encapsulate the phrase ‘an idea is a seed’. Seriously, just mention something to me and it grows and grows and grows until I must do it.

So this idea: try HP Sauce.

Some of you may know this sauce, some may not. Commonly called Brown Sauce, HP Sauce has a malt vinegar base, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract, sweetener and spices. The inventor called the sauce HP because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving.

Northerners love this shit.

Now, I wasn't too sure whether I should dabble in this sauce too much. Like I said, I know what makes my breakfast work and I'm pretty happy with the situation. In fact, last time I contemplated the other accompaniment to an English fry up I was a touch skeptical:  ....and I'm still not convinced.

However, willing to give the benefit of the doubt, Brown sauce has been added to the equation (and of course must cover all other goods):

HP(2e + 3b/To + M)  

So after six years in the UK, I've finally discovered a breakfast item that I can add to my repertoire. Now how the hell do I pay for it at Tesco....

Monday, March 12, 2012's a new day

So after I left you in 2011, I returned back to the UK to settle down, but life had other plans.

I personally think the world wanted to read about my adventures a little more, so while 2011 was a year of little romantic trips to the French Alps, Italy, Croatia and Montenegro, along with nice restaurants and trips to the countryside, 2012 sees me return to my adventures.
So let’s begin right from the start of the year. Returning from Australia a couple of days in to January, I had become a little disenchanted with London and wasn't sure where to place myself. It was all a very strange feeling. Should I start contemplating that big boat home, or head East to Hong Kong? Maybe even save up and put on the backpack for a South American odessy.

So pottering around for a few days with no real direction, I decided to change my whole outlook, start fresh and literally treat London as if I was arriving for the first time.

So I did.

Now, quite a bit of the past two months are blurry, but somehow I’ve completed stage one of Sommelier course, had some scuba lessons, learned to make sushi, enrolled in Pilates - it's to help my running people!! - and managed to commit myself to a series of gruelling physical challenges (still nothing as tough as being forced to watch the ‘So you think you can dance' final)…

One thing I didn’t take in to account when I made this little pact was that since arriving at Heathrow six years ago with £450 and a hopeful smile on my face, my capacity and ability to have said fun has grown.

So why am I talking about fun, well, this story the other day caught my eye:

Londoners are the unhappiest people around! I don’t get it. Well firstly, I think 7.2/10 is pretty happy, no?

Second, I came back and just decided to let it all out, so to speak, and I don’t think I’ve ever been cheerier. I’ve soon realised that fun doesn’t have to come from being out all the time, but more importantly just doing what you want to do, and having the freedom to do it.
Take for example a friend of mine. This was her email to me the other day:

‘I also danced all the way home, it’s a new habit of mine when I'm drunk. I probably look stupid but it makes me happy.’

If I saw someone dancing along Clapham Common, it would probably make me happy too. And there is the joy of London. There’s so many people doing, so many things to do, and such a freedom to them, I’m not sure where else you’d want to be. So chin up 40 year old male Londoners. 

And if you can't, head down to the Common and watch someone bouncing home on a Friday night to David Guetta and think: 'it could be worse....I could be dancing like that'.
Now, with the massive amounts on offer in London, if you set yourself this task, you really need to have something to taper it with. A Yin to the Yang if you will...but more like a Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde.

So, in a Forrest Gump forgetting Jenny style move, I decided to start running. And when I say running, I’m not f**king around. I’m running every version of a marathon that you can. That’s a total of 108 miles (173kms) and the plan to do so in under 24 hours.
Race 1 done: 91.2 miles left to go.. 

19 February: The Brighton Half Marathon (13.1 miles or 21 kms)
15 April: The Brighton Marathon (26.2 miles or 42 kms)
- 23 June: The Hadrian's Wall Ultra Marathon (69 miles or 111 kms)

The first is down with a completion time of 1 hour 34 minutes and 59 seconds, which put me 603 out of 7,500 – a decent place in my book.
Can you tell I wasn't really taking the Half seriously...

I do, however, have to credit my inability to judge distances with getting me under the 1.35 time though. Coming around the corner in to the home stretch, you can’t see the finish line because of a building. I had a rough idea where it lay, having started at the same spot.

So figuring out I had about 100 metres to go, I started a full sprint with the little reserves I had left. Round the corner, I heard the announcer calling out ‘here comes 263 sprinting through the pack, which in turn had the crowd cheering……taking the bend my heart dropped….the line had been moved at least 400 metres back from the spot where the start was….and I had further to go.

However, that damn announcer had already called me so there was no way I could stop the sprint. As I fumbled my way across the line, my legs, arms and breath were everywhere as I attempted to continue with the sprint I could barely breathe. Seriously, I would have looked like a dog running post coitus as I rubber legged it to the finish.
I wasn't in a race...I was running away from the albino ninja behind me

And here's the shameless plug for sponsorship:

So peeps, it’s a new day and a new year, we’ve got a lot to get through in the next 9 months together, so sit down and enjoy….
...and there’s even going to be another Man Trip!