Friday, 22 February 2013

Badverts

I've never much liked TV adverts. Apart from the obvious annoyance of having the programme you're watching halted for five precious minutes, they're also patience shreddingly awful 99% of the time. My usual thought process whilst watching an advert goes something like this:

1) What?
2) No...
3) It can't be...
4) Yes, this is a giant and dirty televised anus, forced into amateur dramatics by people with hot pokers.
5) I think my brain's sliding out of my ears.

Of course, every now and then, you get a really good advert that makes you appreciate that there are some incredibly talented people out there with new ways of thinking. The people at Honda have a good track record. Nike are pretty good too when they're not associating with drug-cheats, adulterers, (alleged) murderers and Ronaldo. Sony's brightly-coloured bouncing balls are decent. And even John West Tuna, with their karate bear, can knock out a decent ad.

So what on Earth is the excuse when companies with gigantic marketing budgets knock out an absolute pile of visual filth? Go Compare? Go fuck yourselves, more like. Seeing the international disabled doctor of the galaxy, Professor Stephen Hawking, in their advert, would've forced me to be violently sick had I not shitted every major organ out of my body in apoplectic rage the millisecond before. And, seriously, compare the meerkat? When have you ever confused those two words before that horrible bunch of clattering arse was unleashed on our senses? Meerkats in the wild = great, lovely, cute. Russian animated meerkats trying to sell me something? There's not even a punchline.

Those two examples aren't even from the big hitters. They probably have quite restricted advertising budgets. It's still not an excuse, mind. Van Gogh created a masterpiece with a canvas, some paint and a hairy stick. But companies with millions at their disposal, like Microsoft, McDonald's, every cosmetics company ever, perfume peddlers and any company responsible for keeping our hair clean, surely deserve some kind of very public punishment.

Yes, it's fair to say most adverts irk me. Currently, however, my anger is being most violently stoked by a certain feature I'm noticing in quite a few adverts: overly aggressive walking. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present my case...

A) Blue de Chanel – Weird press conference. Man says something shit. The walls disappear. He bounces off like he's not quite sure if he's a human being or a badly deformed robo-cock.



B) Beyonce - That set alarm bells ringing straight away. It's not even a product. It's just a fucking advert for her. I hate her. I hate her even more now. The message seems to be "Look, Beyonce's rich, plus she can walk through a door in a way that's dripping with disdain for the common person." Well fuck that.



C) J'adore Dior - Surprise surprise, another fragrance advert. The one with Charlize Theron in it. Not the one where she gets her bum out. That's OK. The one featuring Marilyn Monroe if she'd been the victim of a double stroke. That one. Anyway, she arrives late to a fashion show, says a few hellos, then struts down the catwalk and off into the distance like she's got a huge payload of dogshit on her feet that she's trying desperately to remove by downforce alone.



Please, please make it stop.

Or maybe I should just stop watching so much TV...




.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Ponce

I'm not very good at art. I did it at GCSE level, but only got a C, and I've always been a little bit suspicious that there was a sympathy element to that mark. When I look back through my old sketch books, it's obvious that art was not going to be the route I'd follow. Creative? Yes. Able to channel that creativity though my arm, into my hand and onto a piece of paper via a brush/pencil/other thing? More chance of visiting Woking and not seeing a single idiot. (If you've never been to Woking, I can confirm the odds are tremendously low.)

However, a few years ago I was sitting idly in a friend's kitchen, holding a pen in my hand and not paying much attention to what I was doing with it. When I looked down at the page before me the reality, nay, the gravity of the situation started to sink in. I'd created this man:



Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour and a pleasure to introduce Derek the Ponce.

I don't know why he's called Derek, or why he is a Ponce. All I know is that he captured my heart. He's become something of a celebrity amongst my friends. Two people have expressed an interest in getting a Derek tattoo. As you can see, I happily obliged when requested to adorn a dining room table leg with my creation. He is, quite simply, the greatest creepy little man you'll ever see. I hope he touches you like he touches me (not in an '80s BBC TV presenter type way).

I've got big plans for Derek. I'll keep you posted. Please enjoy his face.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bouncer (not the dog)

Well, as I sit here, having just turned 32 years old, I was thinking about writing a blog detailing how much of an absolute loser I am with very little going for me, but I think that pretty much covers all the bases, so instead I'll write about something else: bouncers.

Bouncers are a funny breed. By 'bouncers' I mean the guys/gals who stand outside clubs – and the occasional bar where the owner has an over-inflated opinion of how good his bar actually is – deciding whether or not you're allowed in and occasionally punching people on the head. Now, before I make my criticisms, I must acknowledge that some bouncers are genuinely lovely people, will engage in chat with you and understand they are there to maintain peace and keep everyone safe. Great people. I mean, that's a pretty important and probably quite stressful job. There are literally hundreds of drunk idiots in the club and these guys have to make sure nothing gets out of hand and everything goes swimmingly. That's a fair amount of responsibility to place on their shoulders. And some of them do it sensibly, with humour and with good grace. I like those people.

Sadly, the vast majority, in my experience at least, are absolute blundering fuckbastards. Being the 32-year old loser that I now am, this often works in my favour, simply because the most amazing words I can possibly hear at 12:30am are "You're not coming in, you should go home." Decent. However, their general demeanour, behaviour and attitude still baffles me to this day. As people employed solely to keep the peace and ensure troublemakers don't get in, why are these people the most aggressive and confrontational people you'll ever possibly meet in a social environment? Why are these people, the ones entrusted with maintaining all of our safety remember, the most antagonistic and angry-faced brutes this side of a space station that looks more like a moon? (If you've never seen Star Wars and don't recognise that reference, I'm OK with you being confused right now.)

A friend of mine was recently turned away from a 'club' (to use the term very loosely – it's basically an expensive old shack above a railway line with some disco lights) because he was wearing trainers. Now, quite apart from the fact that he's been in there hundreds of times with trainers on before, I've never really understood the shoe rule. Especially in a small shack above a railway line in a little suburban village. Anyway, I know I shouldn't have tried, but I attempted to discover why he wasn't allowed in wearing trainers. Given that they recognised him, knew he'd been in many times before and, importantly, had never caused anything even mildly resembling trouble, why now was he not allowed in? Basically just because he hadn't had the forethought to steal some Clarke's Hardware or Big Grippas off a schoolchild before queueing. The guy who did that would get in. Good rules.

I'll never understand the shoe rule. Ever. In posh places where you should be dressed smartly, fair enough, it absolutely fits. But in a little suburban bar, where people are wearing ripped jeans and football shirts, being sick and taking drugs in the toilets, can a man not walk in with clean, presentable trainers? Does a shoe make you less likely to get cause trouble or have a fight? Not in my experience.

But them's the rules, and by crikey will most bouncers let you know about it in the most confrontational and least 'keeper of the peace' type way.

Anyway, just for fun, I thought I'd use a few pictures to show you the type of person who will get in to most of these silly little bars, and the people who won't. Enjoy.

If Jesus was actually real and not entirely fictional, there's no way he's getting in. Look at his fucking feet! The cheek of it!

Richard Reid, aka the Shoe Bomber. Come on in mate, you must be a nice guy.

Are you taking the piss out of me, Gandhi?

Lovely trotters, mein fuhrer. In you come, you seem like a bastion of peace.

Lama, get the fuck out. Bush, you're in.

Mr. Happy can literally go fuck himself.

Mr. Silly? Yep, a stand up guy. Come on in you silly bastard.

The shoe rule. Good one.



Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Dodge, duck, dip, dive and... dodge




Two clans, both six-strong, stand opposite each other, separated by 20 yards of open battlefield. A whistle blows. They surge forwards, screaming as they explode towards their enemies. There’s a clash at the heart of the arena as warriors gather arms. They retreat a safe distance. The standoff commences. Then, BANG! Projectiles fly. Combatants perish and fall as the action roars on until, eventually, one team is annihilated. The air fills with the hollers, whoops and relief of the victors, who bravely live to fight another day…

… then they all head to the bar for a right old piss up! Wahaaay!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Dodgeball. It’s like the opening scene of Gladiator, but with fewer losses of life, less fire, fridgeloads of booze, a considerably more jovial atmosphere, a smattering of sportswear, no weapons and not a single instance of Russell Crowe. As you can imagine, it’s the metaphorical male canine’s genital area. Unless he’s had the op.

I joined a Dodgeball team last summer and, quite frankly, have never looked back. It is, without doubt, one of the best things I’ve ever done. Every Wednesday I hop on the train to the Shoreditch Powerleague centre, where I routinely throw balls as hard as I can at complete strangers. And they don’t even mind! In fact, it’s openly encouraged. Ok, so they throw them back at me, in most cases much more powerfully, but that’s the name of the game. And I love it. Here’s why:

1. If you’ve had a bad day, the dull thud of a ball as it crashes against an opponent’s lumber is quite possibly the best therapy you’ll ever receive.

2. There’s a bar…

3. It’s all for fun and fun for all! Ok, so once you’ve crossed the white lines you do want to win, but you can lose with a smile on your face too. In all the years I’ve played football I don’t think I’ve ever come off the pitch after a defeat and thought “That was awesome.” With Dodgeball I do it all the time. And it’s not just because all the blows to the head have left me mentally retarded.

4. The teams have to be mixed sex. Attractive, athletic ladies in sportswear, getting a sweat on. Could be worse…

5. Winning. Yeah, I know I said it’s all about the fun, but by the beard of Zeus, there’s nothing quite as pleasing as pulling off a winning throw or catch.

6. The atmosphere is electric. My fellow Dodgers are ultra-pleasant and friendly people who love a few drinks in the bar afterwards as much as they enjoy throwing balls directly at people’s faces. It’s a perfect arrangement. Technically speaking, you’re not allowed to hit faces, but it sure makes for better reading.

Perhaps the only downside is the crushing shame and remorse you feel after blasting a humdinger straight into the face/boobies/ovaries of an innocent young lady. Yeah, I feel a bit guilty when that happens. But they would probably hit me square in the pant region at the drop of a hat, so I should stop worrying I guess. Oh, and the inability to perform even the most basic of motor skills with your throwing arm the next day is a slight downside, but who uses their arms these days anyway? It’s much easier to type with your nose and chin…

Anyway, I love Dodgeball. Can't really do it justice in a short blog entry. But I just thought you should know.


Incidentally, if you want to try it out head to http://dodgeballuk.com/

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Marathon Man - Part 4


Perhaps the best way to start this blog entry is to answer the questions posed at the end of the last one. Here goes...

Will I have made it?
Yes. Yes I will. Just about. I've got the medal, the finisher's t-shirt and the photos to prove it. 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 29 minutes. Done.

Will my legs and lungs hold out?
The lungs will. The legs, not so much. Towards the end every major muscle group in my legs was cramping. That's not much fun. Especially in the quads. I have never had cramp in the quads before. Turns out it sucks just as much as anywhere else.

Will I soil myself around the 20-mile marker?
No I won't, and any rumours to the contrary are unfounded and malicious. I haven't washed my shorts yet, you can check them.

Will Brooklyn Decker be waiting at the finish line to give me a really long congratulatory hug?
No. Bang out of order. What's that? Your professional tennis player husband, modelling commitments and blossoming international film career got in the way? Whatever. So selfish...

So there you have it, I have officially run a marathon. At this moment in time, just two days later, it's hard to say exactly how I feel about it. The strongest memories at the moment are probably the negative ones! As I sit here typing this, my legs are in pretty much constant pain. Going up and down stairs poses real problems. I walk like I've been the victim of a brutal, leg-based, gangland attack. It's like someone dressed my legs up as a Crip and drove me into the Bloods part of town. Yeah, that's exactly what it's like. I guess that's how a physiotherapist would describe it too...

Don't get me wrong though, I am over the moon I've done it. No more training for it! I'm so relieved that I can now go for a jog when I actually want to and not because I have to! And it's nice to not have something scary looming on the horizon any more. But in terms of the actual achievement I don't think it's set in yet. I'm still finding it hard to believe that I actually ran 26.2 miles. Doesn't seem real yet. Hopefully that will come when the pain subsides!

Nonetheless, despite my overriding memories being of pain and physical suffering, there were moments that were amazing. In fact, if I think about it, the first 14 miles were really enjoyable. And even though I was in pain, I've never been so fucking happy to be standing still after crossing the finish line!

The positives:
+ Seeing familiar faces in the crowd dotted around the course cheering me on. That was brilliant. It was nice when strangers offered support, but nothing beat seeing friends cheering me on. That was awesome, so thanks to everyone who came to support.

+ Getting a high-five and a shout of "Come on, Andy!" from Gus Poyet. That was pretty funny/cool.

+ The feeling of taking part in something so big and so challenging. That was pretty overwhelming.

+ Raising so much money for such a good cause. Thank you again to everyone who sponsored Dan and I.

+ More than anything, running it with one of my oldest and best friends. Oldest in as much as he's been my friend for a long time. He's not 90 or anything... Seriously though, not only was it great to share the occasion with him, but he also pretty much carried me over the finish line! Those last few miles would've been a hell of a lot tougher without you champ!

The Negatives:
+ Everything after about 18 miles was gruelling and painful. Running the final stretch should've been joyous, but to be honest I was in such pain I couldn't enjoy it!

+ The training.

+ Blah blah blah, stop being a moany old bastard and enjoy it.

So there you have it, my marathon adventure is over. I bloody did it, and I'm glad I've done it. But if anyone hears me talking about doing another one, you have my full permission to hit me in the testicles. Talk to me in about a month if you want a sunnier opinion on marathon running...


Monday, 2 April 2012

Marathon Man - Part 3

Probably about time for an update I'd say. My last post painted a very gloomy picture indeed. I was at a low ebb. Ravaged by flu, lacking energy and clinging to shreds of hope, I was like the A-Team BEFORE they escaped. Now, like a soldier of fortune freshly sprung from unlawful incarceration, I'm a far more positive animal. I'd like to stress, however, I'm not available for hire, I'm not big on plans and I don't have a secret cache of powerful firearms. But, I can run.

Yes, since my previous post I have been putting in the miles and suffering for my efforts. Just yesterday I ran 18 miles. 18. 18 miles. If my run yesterday were a human being, it could legally stroll into a public house, purchase and then sup an alcoholic beverage. In those terms, quite staggering. I managed this without any devices to harness the wind, without any illegal stimulants and without an internal combustion engine. As Paula Radcliffe once said, "I just fackin' ran it up."

So, to cut a long story short, with little over 13 days to go, I now feel far more confident that I will complete my marathon goal. Thanks to my period of illness setting me back a month or so, I'd say it's now going to be more of a horrible slog than an enjoyable challenge, but I'm going to do it nonetheless. As such, I'll probably be pestering you for sponsorship shortly.

Anyway, I thought now might be a good moment to share with you a few things I've noticed during my time pounding the pavements and towpaths of Surrey...

1) In general, I've found that if you're running towards a group of people, most will shimmy to the side at least a little bit to let you get past. I always say thank you as a courtesy, even though, let's face it, they don't own the ruddy pavement, so why should they have any more rights to it than I do simply because they're walking and I'm running? Anyway, I digress. What I've noticed is that most people move quite happily, but two distinct groups stick out by a mile as the least jogger-friendly: chavvy kids and women over the age of roughly 50. I realise the age thing is pure guesswork and it's a sweeping generalisation, but I think it's fairly accurate. Now, with the chavs, I fully expected it of them. In their adolescent mind, somehow being rude and taking the mickey out someone who is both relatively fit (see 'jogging') and twice the size of them is a good idea. That's because they're demented. Fair enough. But the women of a certain age, I just don't get it. Nine times out of ten they just look at me angrily as if jogging is the visual equivalent of a shit-smeared wall. If they've got hiking poles with them, there's absolutely no fucking way they're budging even so much as an inch. Even if it means I have to run several metres submerged in the Basingstoke canal. If anybody can offer any possible explanations for this bizarre trend, I'd love to hear from you.

2) Lots of people have fires. Seriously. It's like every third garden is home to a blazing inferno. When you're gasping for air, you really notice when it suddenly thickens with plumes of dark smoke. And it happens a lot. Can the residents of Surrey please stop setting so much stuff on fire? It's like that guy on Friends. Not Tom Selleck; the other one.

3) Hills are horrible. Going up them saps your energy, and coming down them forces your hips to make a beeline for your armpits. Unpleasant. And it turns out roads I've traversed hundreds of times before in a car are actually far steeper than I'd ever realised. Bummer.

4) Dogs are awesome. I already knew this, but regular jogging has reinforced my view times ten. They are such happy animals. They just love running and playing. There's nothing that lifts your spirits 10 miles into a run quite like being joined for a few strides by a furry pacemaker. Bless their tiny little happy faces.

5) Tree roots are the evil wooden offspring of Peter Sutcliffe. And apparently my ankles are Yorkshire-based prostitutes.

6) There aren't many bins. Yesterday, 18 miles, predominantly on public pathways. I passed one bin. Keep Britain tidy, kids...

So, my next post (quite possibly titled 'Marathon Man - Part 4') will be written after the big day. Will I have made it? Will my legs and lungs hold out? Will I soil myself around the 20-mile marker? And will Brooklyn Decker be waiting at the finish line to give me a really long congratulatory hug? Only time (and this blog in a couple of weeks) will tell...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Marathon Man - Part 2

So, following on from where I left off, I entered Autumn 2011 back at square one, but with plenty of time to be ready for the big day. Various things happened over the next few months that gave me a terrible kicking personally, but through it all I managed to keep up the training.

Even moving to New Haw, where joggers seem to be greeted with absolute suspicion and hostility, didn't stop me from pounding the pavements. Even Christmas, a time of year when I traditionally eat and drink until my insides pack up and stop working entirely, didn't derail me. I went for a run the day after Boxing Day! It was horrific. I thought my over-extended abdomen was going bounce in such a way as to either render me infertile or knock my silly face off. But I did it anyway. And I felt great for it.

2012 has seen me reach standards of fitness that I have undoubtedly never before attained. By the beginning of February I was doing 10-mile runs, taking in giant hills, towpaths, tarmac and the occasional roundabout (road, not playground), and I was actually ENJOYING it. Crazy, but hugely satisfying. Everything was going to plan and I was actually looking forward to the big day. My plan was going perfectly. By the end of Feb I'd be doing 15-milers, and by the end of March, just two weeks before the marathon, I'd be doing 20-milers. Perfect.

Then, disaster struck. Towards the end of February I was poleaxed by a bout of flu. I've had flu, or heavy colds, before and they generally keep me out of action for a couple of days, no hassle. You know how it goes: feel shit, lack energy, sleep badly, get better, everything's fine, thank you. But not this. This wasn't going to let me off that easily.

I know people joke about it and say "oh, bit of man flu eh?!" but this is without doubt the most ill I have ever been in my life. The first evening I had all the usual shivery then boiling hot nonsense. Then, that night, I woke up at about 3:00 in the morning, so soaking wet that, ironically, it was like I'd just been out for a long run. I was literally dripping with sweat. I had to go to the bathroom to dry myself off and wait for my bed to dry out a bit. Last time I checked, sleeping shouldn't be strenuous enough to cause that. That was definitely a bit weird and a warning of what I was in for.

Over the next week I continued to have my buttocks thoroughly kicked by this particularly vicious fever. Fuck man flu, this was dragon flu or something. There were a few days when I genuinely thought I might have contracted the Black Death. Take last Saturday for example. Just as I thought I was recovering, I suffered a giant relapse. I felt so weak that I couldn't even bring my hand out from beneath the blanket to change channels on the TV. I felt paralysed with feebleness. Before I knew it, I'd watched almost two hours of documentaries on the holocaust. What. The. Fuck. Not an ideal Saturday. Let that be a lesson to you all – if you ever start feeling ill, make sure you don't leave your digibox on the 'Yesterday' channel, or you could be in for the most depressing sick day of your life.

Even now as I write this, over two weeks later, I still feel rotten. Because of the way the virus struck in my training programme, I basically missed two full weeks of training. Not a single run. No exercise at all. For two whole weeks. Double balls. With just over a month to go, they were two weeks I could ill afford to lose.

But it gets worse. I've now started running again. I simply can't waste any more training days. But things aren't as they were before I fell ill. Where once I was pounding out 10 miles easily, I am now struggling with 4-milers. And it is absolutely devastating. As it stands, I'm not sure if that's a result of the two weeks of enforced inactivity, or the fact that I'm still not operating with a clean bill of health. This virus is still kicking about in my system.

Whatever it is, I am now in a position where I genuinely don't know if I'll be in a any shape to run the marathon. I should be doing runs between 15 and 20 miles now. Instead, I'm aching my way around 4-mile circuits. This is bad.

I guess we'll just have to see how it goes. I'll keep you posted. Touch lots of wood for me please. If I miss the marathon because of a broken leg, a ruptured achilles or a burst arse, I'll be able to handle it. If I miss out because I had a nasty bout of flu, I'm going to throw myself under a bus (not literally).

This is Andy Durrant, marathon hopeful, signing off for now. Hopefully see you at the finish line. x