Mud and guts

The guys caked in mud
Mudderella 2014

I don’t like running and I don’t like mud. Yet I paid good money to run five miles and get caked in mud. Obstacle course runs are popping up all over the place these days and they seem to be really popular. But why?

That was the question I asked myself yesterday as I joined the horde in the mass warm up before heading to the start line of Mudderella. “Remember why you are here,” the organisers shouted down the microphone as they built the crowd up.

Why am I here? I thought. “Are you raising money for charity, to challenge yourself, or to support a friend?” the organisers asked. None of the above, I thought.  I’m here because my friends are here and I don’t like to miss out on a laugh.

So we donned our race numbers, painted our faces and set off. The first section was uphill and seemed to take forever. Reaching the first obstacle was a relief – a short break from running. The first obstacles were not too bad, crawling under nets and climbing over hay bales.

But it soon got worse than just muddy hands and knees when we reached the obstacle called ‘Fifty Shades of Mud.’ After sliding down mud mounds into stinking waist deep water and clambering up the other side we were completed caked from head to foot. And if I thought the running was tough already then I was in for a shock when I had a thick layer of mud, soaked through clothes, and trainers full of gunk to weigh me down.

Thankfully most of the mud was washed away at the final obstacle.  However, it did involve descending a kamikaze style water slide into a pool of water mixed with the mud, sweat, probably blood, and who knows what else of all the runners before us.

We made it to the end and enjoyed the well-deserved complementary beer. So would I do it again? Well I still don’t like running, or mud, or being cold and wet but it was somehow funny and if my mates did it again then yes I would probably join them.

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Quick reads

If you have a couple of minutes to spare, why not download the nifty little Ether Books app – available for free on android and apple. It’s a mobile reading app, full of short stories and quick reads, perfect for when you are at the bus stop or waiting at the dentists.

Once you have the app you’ll have access to loads of great stories, many of which are free – including mine.

My three latest stories were written for the 8 Days of Ether flash fiction competition. Each story is less than 500 words. Download them for free, read and enjoy:

Time Stone
Summary: Sofka has a powerful stone but has time run out for him now?

My Body Beautiful
Summary : Sally needs to get back into those jeans!

Wedding Day
Summary : Weddings take a lot of organising and this one was planned from start to finish.

I hope you enjoy the stories. Feedback is very welcome.

Lost Luggage

My short story ‘Lost Luggage’ is now online at www.short-fiction.co.uk

Read Lost Luggage online for free.
Summary: Kevin’s luggage has been lost. Will he let it spoil his lads’ holiday in the sun?

I also have two short stories on the Ether Books mobile reading app (free on i-phone and android):

Witches’ Night Off
Summary : It’s Halloween and Jessica’s spooky friends have taken the night off. But when the trick or treaters arrive, Jessica can’t resist playing a few tricks of her own.

Little Horror
Summary : When her boyfriend Simon is killed, this little spider seeks revenge. It is a dangerous game to play, but who will win in the end?

The Perfect Pub Crawl

Free air guitar with every drink sign. Pub in Dublin, Ireland
Pub sign in Ireland

Is there such a thing as the perfect pub? Lemming, Knoxie and I went to Ireland with no intention of finding that out but our adventure led us close to finding the answer.

We arrived in Belfast, found our hostel, dumped our bags and headed off to explore.  We decided to find a pub to sample the Guinness and plan our itinerary.

Finding a pub proved tricky. There were plenty of them to choose from but Knoxie was very selective. We seemed to walk the entire length of Belfast but each pub we came across was deemed too scary, too posh, too empty, too busy, too brothelly, or had too many bars on the windows.

Eventually we found a place that Goldilocks Knoxie was happy with. We marked out the places we wanted to go on the map and decided to visit the Titanic museum that afternoon. Four pints later we found that the museum had closed at five and we had missed it.

That evening we searched for more Knoxie approved bars. Eventually we found a table in a traditional Irish pub. However this seat was right opposite the men’s toilet, where judging by the fact that countless men came out still pulling up their pants, there was not much room.

On Saturday we got up bright and early to catch the bus into Dublin where we had a quick gander at the castle and St Patrick’s Cathedral before searching for some decent pubs. Once again plenty of bars failed Knoxie’s scrutiny (too laddish, too posh and too full). We stumbled across a pub which I thought Knoxie would describe as ‘too bohemian’ but she thought it was cool. However we didn’t stay long as it turned out to be too cold.

Eventually we found a pub where we could sit and watch the rugby while a live band played. This seemed like a perfect place to settle but we had one problem. We faced a two and a half hour journey back to Belfast on a bus with no toilet. Knoxie came up with the genius idea that as alcohol is dehydrating we should drink more to avoid the need to pee. Amazingly, it worked.

On Sunday we took a coach tour up to the Giant’s Causeway. The driver told some good tales and pointed out some interesting features of the Irish coastline in his thick London accent. We stopped at Carrick-a Reed and paid £5 to walk over a 5 metre rope bridge in the wind and hail then sat on the coach, cold and wet before exploring the rocks at Giant’s Causeway. Luckily there was a nice pub with a fire where we enjoyed a hot toddy and dried off before the coach trip back to the hostel.

That evening we discovered a bar with a huge pool hall but cold toilets and too many cupboards. Then another with a cool secret garden but soggy toilet paper and too many TOWIE rejects.

Next we found a pub with a warm fire and nice music but nowhere to sit. We left after encountering some discarded jeggings in the toilet.

We retired to the hostel after our busy day but were woken in the night by our roommate and her male visitor. As if trying to block out the sound of them attempting silent sex in the bunk underneath Lemming wasn’t bad enough, he also snored and his phone went off every half hour.

We returned home the next day, exhausted from our interrupted night’s sleep.  I’m not sure that we found the perfect pub but we had fun looking and concluded that enjoying the company of the people you are with is more important than the place – unless it’s too cold, too busy, too brothelly…

A Day in the Life of Merlin Moon-dancer

This morning, after the moonlight was replaced with a blindingly bright light, one of my humans asked me what I had been up to. So here is how I spent my last 24 hours:

6.00am: I had been running in my wheel all night. I was going really fast but starting to get tired when one of my humans came in and the bright light suddenly appeared.

6.15am:  My humans were rushing around and making a noise. I could smell food so I ran around in my cage to get their attention. I ran to my empty food bowl and then up to the side of the cage. I pulled my best adorable yet hungry face. My human passed a slice of banana through the bars…nom nom nom!

6.45am: The bright light went out and my humans left. The moon had gone by now so I went into my house and fell asleep.

5.00pm:  My humans returned so I came out of my house to see if they had any more food for me. They didn’t, so I went back to sleep.

8.00pm: I woke up and left my house to stretch my legs. One of my human’s giant hands came into the cage and picked me up. She took me to the big red thing where the other human was sitting. I tried to get in the gap at the edge of the big red thing but the human grabbed me and pulled me out. I climbed over the human to try to get to the other gaps but was distracted when I saw the human’s tasty fingers. I ran to try and take a bite but it moved out of the way.

8.15pm: My human picked me up, put me in the green ball and closed the lid. It was zorbing time! I ran across the room, faster, faster and faster until I smashed into the wall. Then I turned round and ran the other way until I hit the wall again. It was so much fun that I did it over and over again.

8.30pm: I stopped for a break and pooed through the cracks in the ball.

9.30pm: My ball suddenly rose into the air. The lid opened and I was at the gate of my cage.  I could smell there was food in my bowl so I climbed out of my ball and into my cage. I shoved all the food into my pouches and moved it into my house, well hidden from my humans.

9.35pm: The humans picked up my poo while I checked out my cage. I’m not sure what they do with the poo but they must like it as they had put some treats in my cage.

9.45pm: I went back to my wheel and ran some more. The bright light went out and was replaced by the moonlight. The humans said goodnight and left. I danced and ran in the moonlight all night until the bright light reappeared and the human asked me what I had been up to.

So that was my day. I have a feeling today will be similar, and probably the day after too.

A Whole Bunch of Fun Times

It’s the small things that make you laugh. Here are some of the small things that made us laugh on our trip to see the lovely Colleen in Germany.

The fun started at the airport. We watched people going through the security scanners with their hands in the air and terrified expressions of ‘please don’t shoot’ on their faces. We laughed nervously, hoping we would not join the unlucky ‘frisked’ ones.

We made it through safely and I bought a small, overpriced, notepad. I forgot to take my boarding card to the till so the lady asked my destination. I told her Stuttgart, to which she replied, “Is that in Europe?”

We sat in the bar while we waited for our gate to be announced. Knoxie read a health and fitness magazine and ordered chips and a pint of cider. A lady on a nearby table ordered a large salad – with a side of salad and a man gave the bar staff his table number of, “That table over there with the blonde lady on.”

We overheard someone describing the sandwiches in Pret a Manger as gay.

An air hostess sat next to Knoxie on the plane and fell asleep. Apparently she was just a normal passenger who was dressed as an air hostess.

Colleen met us at Stuttgart airport and we were surprised to hear her use the phrase ‘Flipping flapjacks’ as an alternative to her old catchphrase, ‘f***ing f***sticks’.

The next morning we made an early start and grabbed some breakfast on the road. Knoxie attempted to speak German in a bakery. She pointed at the croissants and said, “Drei.” The baker looked confused and replied, “One?”

We stopped in Munich and Colleen announced, “I just peed.” It turned out she just needed to go again, rather than she had just wet herself. Colleen was an excellent tour guide, pointing out things like ‘more buildings’ and explaining that nearby there is a ‘whole bunch of stuff’. We stumbled across two shrines; one to Michael Jackson and one to a monkey.

We headed onto our destination which the satellite navigation system pronounced as, “Gaaaaarmish Paaaarten Kiiiiiirschen.” Knoxie pointed at a sign saying ‘Einfahrt’ and said, “Just the one fart for me please.”

In the evening we explored the town. We passed many statues of Jesus and overheard someone say, “Good morning Mr Jesus. Say hello to your family, loved ones, and the ghost.”

Knoxie, who has a first degree in zoology, pointed at a kitten and said, “It’s a baby cat.”

I was asked for ID in a bar causing Colleen to say, “Flipping flapjacks!”

We visited Neuschwanstein Castle. I crouched down to take a photo of Knoxie and Colleen with the pretty castle in the background. Colleen crouched down too – for no apparent reason.

Knoxie’s monkey hat caused much amusement to many passers by.

Colleen asked a woman what breed of dog she was walking and reported back, “It’s a blah blah blah blah blah, otherwise known as an Italian truffle-sniffing dog.”

We took a bus up a big hill in Innsbruck. Colleen bought the tickets and was asked if it was for one adult and two children – more flipping flapjacks. As we got off the bus, an Austrian man looked at my trainers and laughed, “Shoe, hahaha. Shoe, hahaha.”

Colleen forgot to flip her flapjacks on the cable car down the mountain and cursed in front of a little old lady. Knoxie attempted to speak German again but this time did it veeery slooowly.

Back at Stuttgart airport, Knoxie remarked that the security woman was not very friendly. Knoxie was promptly and thoroughly frisked. Her airport humiliation continued after she had discreetly placed a tampon in her pocket but then sent it flying across the terminal floor when removing her phone from the same pocket.

Knoxie’s travel woes continued when her plane seat neighbour leaned over and scratched her head into Knoxie’s lap. Oh how we laughed.

So those were just some of the things that made us chuckle. Maybe you had to be there but for us they created happy memories of Germany and Austria. Good times.

Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?

Have you ever wondered which Hogwarts house the Sorting Hat would put you in? Well this quiz is here to help. Just grab a quill and some parchment, pull on your wizard robes and answer the following questions.

What is your dream holiday?

a)      A city break, learning about a different culture.
b)      Sharing a villa with friends.
c)      An adventurous activity holiday.
d)      A luxury holiday being waited on hand and foot.

Your friend falls into a river. What do you do?

a)      Calculate the depth and work out whether your friend can
stand up in the water.
b)      Help them out and walk them home to get changed.
c)      Dive in after them.
d)      Laugh.

Which animal are you most like?

a)      An owl.
b)      A dog.
c)      A cat.
d)      A shark.

Where would you rather live?

a)      In a tower lined with bookshelves.
b)      In a basement.
c)      In a tower with comfy armchairs.
d)      In a dungeon.

You are playing football but your team is losing. What do you do?

a)      Analyse the opposition’s tactics and calculate how to outwit
them.
b)      Work harder.
c)      Push forward and go for the win.
d)      Cheat.

You buy a stripy hat. What colour is it?

a)      Blue and bronze.
b)      Yellow and black.
c)      Scarlet and gold.
d)      Green and silver.

Where would you choose to stand at a firework display?

a)      In some space on a hill.
b)      In the thick of it on the grass.
c)      By the fire.
d)      By the lake.

What is most important to you?

a)      Knowledge.
b)      Loyalty.
c)      Courage.
d)      Success.

You are out cycling when you get a puncture in your front tyre. What do you do?

a)      Google how to fix it, and do the repair yourself.
b)      Push your bike all the way home.
c)      Ride your bike all the way home while pulling a wheelie.
d)      Find someone else’s bike and swap the wheels over.

What do you look for in a new job?

a)      A job that will use and increase your knowledge.
b)      A job where you can meet new friends.
c)      A job to challenge you.
d)      A job to increase you bank balance.

You have enjoyed a nice meal with friends but your group does not have enough money for the bill. What do you do?

a)      Google the nearest cash-point.
b)      Wash up.
c)      Leave your phone and wrist watch as a deposit and
promise to come back with the cash.
d)      Tell the restaurant manager the food was awful and refuse
to pay the bill.

That’s it. Now just tot up how many times you answered a, b, c or d.

Your results:

Mostly a. The Sorting Hat says, “You belong in wise old Ravenclaw, if you’ve a steady mind, where those of wit and learning, will always find their kind.”

Mostly b. The Sorting Hat says, “You belong in Hufflepuff, where they are just and loyal, those patient Hufflepuffs are true and unafraid of toil.”

Mostly c. The Sorting Hat says, “You belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart, their daring, nerve and chivalry set Gryffindors apart.

Mostly d. The Sorting Hat says, “In Slytherin you’ll make your real friends, those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends.”

Please remember this quiz is just for fun and, if you don’t like the result, you probably came out as Slytherin!

But as J.K. Rowling once said “If it matters to you, you’ll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.”

A Guide for Aliens

Are you a visiting alien? Perhaps you are here on holiday, looking to relocate, or thinking about invading. Whatever your reason, welcome to planet Earth. This guide aims to provide you with useful information to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

Social Media – While you are here, make sure you record your stay and share your experiences with the world, and possibly beyond. Check in on facebook wherever you go and send tweets of all random thoughts throughout the day. This is important as some people will judge your worth by the number of Twitter followers you have. Don’t worry though, not everyone is so fickle to worry about social media clout. Others will judge you by the car that you drive instead.

Highway Code – Talking of cars. If you wish to drive your space vehicle through the streets you will need to take a driving test first. With your superior intelligence this will be easy, there are plenty of idiots on the roads who have somehow managed to pass. Before your test you will need to learn the highway code. This is a set of rules and guidelines that drivers obey to ensure road safety. Please note: Drivers of BMWs appear to be exempt.

TV – Watching soap operas is a good way to learn about our culture. However, please be aware that not everyone has enough spare cash to spend all day in pubs or cafes and if you think everyone in Eastenders is rude, that is nothing, wait until you visit London for real.

Sports – Why not make friends by trying one of our popular team sports? Many games such as hockey and football are played on a similar looking pitch. It is important to study the rules and make sure you are playing the right game. While it is fine for hockey players to whack each other’s ankles with a big stick this is not acceptable in football.

Weather – In the UK, weather is never just weather. It is always too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry and people like to talk about this problem a lot. It is likely that during your stay you will experience cold water being poured on you from the sky. Do not take offence, it will be poured on everyone and it is called rain. Rain occurs when the clouds become full and burst. Please note: For health and safety reasons, please do not climb on the clouds.

I hope you have found this guide useful and that you enjoy your time here on planet Earth.

 

Just saying…