Religion, strangers, Uncategorized

…been to an Atheist Church

day 72Day Seventy-two

The main thing that puts me off church, apart from the God stuff, is the singing. The awkward group mass mumbling of hymns, where only the odd dedicated few seem to vaguely know the tune, whilst the rest keep their head down and try to get through it.

Things are different at the Atheist Church, which is an obvious contradiction in terms.  Instead of dreary old religious numbers, we sang pop hits like I Will Survive and Holding Out for Hero.  This however didn’t stop my usual awkward feeling when it comes to group singing, despite the old granny bopping along next to me, I didn’t quite have the confidence to belt the words out.

The Sunday Assembly is a Godless congregation who aim to celebrate life. They’re attempting to help everyone find and fulfil their potential.  There was tea and cake, just like in a real church. There was moments of reflection, a bit like praying in a real church, even a children’s play area, and not a pervy vicar in sight like in a real church.  I quite enjoyed it and found the optimism infectious.

The guest speaker for the morning talked about Brunel building a Victorian tunnel under the Thames.  He spoke of how it kept flooding during the construction and was only complete due to human PERSEVERANCE.  Later in the day two other people, in separate conversations, used the word PERSEVERANCE.  I found this a little odd, a day after deciding to preserve with my challenge – I thought perhaps this was a sign from God telling me everything will be alright, but then I remembered I’d just been told there is no God.  Oh well…a little weird though, no?

http://sundayassembly.com/

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celebrities, school, Uncategorized

I’m a failure – now what?

failAs a child, I never idolised any famous figures apart from Dennis the Menace, but he’s a cartoon character so that doesn’t count.  I never really understood why anybody would be obsessed about somebody they didn’t know.  I’d look at old statues of very serious men with bird poo dribbling down their stony faces, wondering what was so special about them.  After starting this personal challenge I’ve realised why we, the human people, give so much admiration towards certain individuals and achievers; and how I’ll never be one of them.

I guess I was always going to fail, I suppose trying something new every day was quite a tall order, particularly for someone who has “the brains of a slug” (the words of my science teacher, although I think he was having a bad day and his comments weren’t based on fact).  However I’m not a stupid person, certainly not when compared intellectually with a terrestrial gastropod mollusc – all I am is but an average guy.

The type of average guy who says ‘I’m on a diet so I’ll have just one small piece of cake’ then ends up eating it all.

The type of average guy who has to Google another term for a slug and doesn’t just possess that knowledge.

The type of average guy who sets himself a yearlong challenge, then fails eleven weeks in, as it’s been raining solidly for two weeks, so he can’t be arsed to leave the house. I mean seriously do you know how cold it is outside? No way.

I’m that type of average guy.

I am, of course, disappointed that I failed, particularly as some accurately predicted I would.  I only missed out on one day, unfortunately that one day soon turned into two weeks (oops!) I thought about lying, just for the sake of the blog, but that seemed stupid.  Friends kept asking me how the challenge was going, I’d say ‘Really well thanks. I’ve done so many new things this week, it’s changing my life’ – liar, big fat liar, big fatty pants on fire.  So I can’t lie anymore; I, the average guy, have failed.

I realise now why we praise people who run the fastest, or write the best, or make the most money, because unfaltering perseverance and commitment to personal change is really quite something.  I once walked past celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who was filming in the street for one of his many TV programmes.  I admired the way he was jumping up and down, enthusiastically shouting at the crew, ‘Come on, let’s do this!’. I thought to myself, ‘There’s a man who has a lust for life, a great achiever, someone who embraces every moment.’…At the same time I also thought, ‘What an absolute cock!’, so I’m not overly worried that I don’t have the genes of the celebrated few and I’m, indeed, prone to failure. But the big question is: What now?

I guess I could just give up, go back to the world of laziness, day dreaming and a slow simmering undercurrent of frustration, because in a weird way that’s easier.  Yet I don’t want to – every time I tried something new, however hard or scary it was, I felt a little more alive (apart from the time I tried Cock Soup, that really didn’t help achieve anything).  I made a promise on day 59 to commit  to seeing something through, I want my word to mean something, so I guess I’ll dust myself down (or is it dust myself off, I can’t remember, off sound’s a little rude – it must be down), pick myself up and carry on for the sake of the average guy. Yes.

Besides I’ve still got to prove to that barman in the Hogshead that I DO have sparkle, if not a slightly faulty sparkle.

So on to the next 294 new things, here goes…

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Dance, food, Health, money, Religion, strangers, Uncategorized

…guest speaker/bible/5Rhythms/ballet/£3,700…

Week 10

Day sixty-five

…been a guest speaker

I Day 65was invited to be a guest speaker at the Greenwich Series, an informal evening where speakers talk for 10 minutes.  The other speakers were from Amnesty International and Talk To Me London, an organisation making strangers communicate better – both worthy causes, unlike my self-centred adventure.

I had no idea how much I was meant to prepare.  Was it best just to get up and speak? Prepare a PowerPoint presentation? Printed hand-outs? Or perhaps an interpretive dance?  I decided just to talk.

As I started speaking my nerves took an unexpected hold on me.  The audience, gathered in the top room of a Greenwich pub, stared at me intently.  The more I talked, the more I was unsure what was coming out of my mouth, but I think something along the lines of “Blah Blah Blah”.  At the end the audience asked a few questions, which was kind. I probably should have done the dance.

I’ve been invited to talk again at the end of these 365 days. I just hope I’m not dead by then. Or in jail.

Day Sixty-six

…tried to read the Bible

I discovered it takes between 50 to 100 hours to read. I was expecting the bible to be easy to follow, considering how popular it is. I managed 17 pages.

At least I tried.

Neil’s book Review:
Title: The Bible
Publisher: Various
Price: free from most good hotels.
I was slightly overwhelmed by the numbers of characters and felt this book could have been shorter, however I certainly liked the snappy title and couldn’t argue with the price.

Day Sixty-seven

…tried a 5Rhythms

The basic idea is to move to the music however you feel, a bit like jumping around in a club without any alcohol.  At occasional points, a somewhat camp man whispered into a microphone in a slightly creepy way to “just move like the sea” or “feel like the wind” or “set your mind free”

At the end we all sat around in a circle, with a candle in the middle (not sure why), and were invited to talk about our feelings.  We sat in silence for a few minutes staring at each other until one woman whispered the words “thank you” whilst touching her heart. Yeah.

However, one middle-aged gent was rather disappointed.  “It’s not as good as my usual one in Oxford,” he sighed. “People seem to be less into you being touchy feely here in London”.

Day Sixty-eight

…had lunch at a members’ clubDay 68

I spent the whole time speaking in a gentle mannered voice.

I also kept looking around to see if there were any celebrities, wondering “who’s that guy?”

Perhaps everyone else was wondering that about me…

Who am I?

Day Sixty-nine

…Been to the BalletDay 69

BORING!!!

Next…

Day Seventy

…eaten a whole scotch bonnet chili, twice

having not learnt a lesson from my experience with the Phall curry on Day 28, I tried a Scotch Bonnet Chili.  It wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be, so I immediately popped another in my mouth – once again, I spent the whole night clutching my stomach just for the sake of a new experience. Idiot.

Day Seventy-one

…bathed in £3,740.Day 71

No, it wasn’t mine (in case the Inland Revenue are asking)

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Acts of kindness, Crime, Dance, Dating, internet, Religion, strangers, Uncategorized

…shoplifted/Hare Krishna/Freemasions/Ninja Skills…

Week 9

Day Fifty-Eight

…signed up to a dating website

I’ve always thought internet dating was full of weirdos and perverts – so I gave it a try.

Match.com allows you to upload 6 profile photos, unfortunately I don’t have any of me working out or saving several orphans from a burning building, just lots of drunk photos, which is unlikely to entice the ladies.

If you wish to date me (I’m not paying for the whole meal) you’ll find me under the name neilfoster81 here: http://www.match.com

Day Fifty-nine

…committed to seeing something through to the end

It was New Year’s Eve.  I contemplated the ten months left of this challenge and came very close to quitting.  One of my Friends said “why don’t you just give in, that’s what you always do”.

Like most modern men, I have commitment issues – it’s not my fault, I blame the generation I was born into.  On New Year’s Eve 2014 I made a commitment to my friends to see this through to the end and not give up on it, something I’ve never really done before.

I’m excited about the year ahead.

Day Sixty

Day 60…shoplifted

I’ve never shoplifted, apart from when I unintentionally stole Pick ‘n’ Mix as a child, so I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s a lot harder than it probably used to be as every shop has cameras, so I had to wait until the shopkeeper turned his back.  I bought a bottle of water, whilst at the same time sneaking a Mars into my pocket – proper rebel.

Afterwards I felt completely guilty, so I’ve returned the pilfered confectionary item in post with a note apologising for my misdemeanour; I’m not quite a career criminal yet.

Day Sixty-one

…listened to a meditation tape

To get the New Year off to a good start, I received a speeding ticket from the police.  I now have three points on my driving license, which I’ve never had before.  I was always told as kid that points mean prizes, so I’m quite pleased.  In the eyes of the law I’m now three points closer to being a Bad Ass.

To help me relax after this unfortunate news I tried listening to a meditation tape, it didn’t work.  It was basically just the sound of nature with a softly spoken woman saying “you’re in your secret place”.

Each time I tried to relax a really loud woodpecker kept making me jump, making my secret place quite stressful – I won’t be going back.

Day Sixty-Two

Day 62…visited the Freemasons Grand Lodge

I don’t know much about the Freemasons, apart from that it’s a very secretive organisation – which is why I don’t know much about it.

I discovered there’s a small museum in the United Grand Lodge, their HQ in Holborn.  You can visit the museum if you ask at the reception desk, but you have to sign in and they watch you closely.

The plethora of Freemason artefacts on display still didn’t really explain what they’re all about.  The whole time I kept thinking, if this was a movie I’d accidentally uncover a secret, my apartment would be bugged and men with guns would start following me.

I was given a tour of the Grand Temple.  It was impressive, but I was still no closer to the truth.  However, to my surprise, the tour guide suggested perhaps I’d consider becoming a member; he asked nobody else in the group.  He took my details and said he’d pass them on when I’m ready – if you don’t hear from for a while, then I’m being bugged and the armed men are coming.

Day Sixty-three

…folded a t-shirt in 2 seconds like a Ninja

Day Sixty-four

1528552_781065705241364_1171771393_n…chanted at the Hare Krishna Temple

I was informed the Hare Krishna’s (or “a bunch fruit-loops” as my Nan once called them) have a service/get together on Sunday that’s good for newcomers, so I went along.  I was expecting someone to greet me and explain the basics, but nobody did, so I sat on the floor in their small temple, just off Oxford Street, and tried to copy everyone else.  I felt like a bit of a prat, but I don’t think anyone cared as they were more concerned with Krishna.

At one point, after lots of chanting, a large curtain was drawn to reveal some deities.  Everyone stood, banged cymbals and danced; I must admit I got into a bit, despite having no idea what was going on.  At the end, three hours later, they asked who was new and why they were here.  I put up my hand and explained about my yearlong challenge and they all spontaneously clapped, which I felt was a very gracious, but I guess that’s what they’re all about.

On my side quest, to understand religion, I’m starting to realise gathering as a group to be selfless and share some common principles may be a very beneficial practice, but I’m still not convinced there’s a God yet.  The Hare Krishnas were very lovely people; they gave me a free Indian meal, making them one up on the Christians who just offered me coffee and cake.

HARE KRSNA, HARE KRSNA, KRSNA, KRSNA, HARE HARE

HARA RAMA, HARE RAMA, RAMA RAMA, HARE HARE

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Acts of kindness, Big issuse, Fitness, Games, Homeless, Poverty, Voluteering

…Homeless Shelter/Insanity Fitness/Vedic Maths

Week 8Week 8

It’s the New Year (Happy New Year etc).

New Year’s Day is often considered by many to be a symbolic time for personal change, but the reality is the entire country’s hung-over and can’t be arsed.

Recently I’ve started to really feel the enormity of my personal challenge.  I keep getting massively behind blogging about my daily adventures, mainly because I’m a lazy pig (not wishing to be rude about our swine friends, I feel they get a lot of abuse when it comes to deprecating metaphors).  I’ve even come close to quitting and I’ve still got forty-four weeks to go.  It’s a lot harder than I first thought, although to be fair I didn’t really put much thought into it in the first place, but it’s the New Year and I’m determined to carry on.

Instead of blogging daily I’m now going to write weekly summaries of my experiences, hopefully allowing me more time to focus on achieving new things, rather than having the usual ‘OhbloodyhellthedaysnearlyoverandIdontknowwhattodo’ panic.  In fact I’m already going on a bit and beginning to panic, so let’s get on with it, starting with the last three days of week eight:

Day Fifty-five

…Volunteered at a shelter for the homeless

I wasn’t expecting there to be many volunteers at the temporary homeless shelter, run during the Christmas period by the charity Crisis, but I was pleasantly surprised to find over a hundred people giving up their spare time to do a good deed.  I possibly made a bit of a rookie mistake when the organiser announced at the start “I need four volunteers.  If you were here yesterday you probably know what the task is”.  I foolishly put up my hand up and was lead straight to toilet cleaning duty. Two hours later I was relieved from the ‘shit’ job, then taken to the kitchen and told to clean dishes for three hours, however my final task was to simply supervise the makeshift cinema room (basically I got to watch some films with a load of homeless people).

The eight hour shift with no break was tiring, but I certainly felt I’d worked my way up the hierarchy of volunteering.  I’ll be helping again next year.

www.crisis.org.uk

Day Fifty-six

…Attempted the Insanity Fitness Test

I remember seeing one of those disturbingly long digital TV adverts, in fact I think they’re called infomercials, for the Insanity Workout programme, which claims to be the toughest fitness programme ever put on DVD – I had to give it a go.

Unlike on day four, when I tried a Jane Fonda workout video, it was impossible to find a YouTube clip of the twenty minutes of fitness insanity.  The closest I got to a free copy of the workout was some home videos showing people following the DVD in their living rooms, which was bit weird, but I figured I’d just have to follow them following the official footage.

I worked out with a really fat American chap, who, for some reason, felt it was appropriate to exercise pretty much naked – which made me feel a bit sick.  I followed the video in my bedroom, but there wasn’t really enough space so I kept knocking things over and hurting myself, also my new chubby online fitness buddy kept pausing the video, however I persevered and got to the end – insanity!

www.beachbody.co.uk

Day Fifty-Seven

…Learnt Vedic Maths

I got an E grade at GCSE Maths, so I can confidently say I’m no Carol Voderman or whomever the male equivalent is.  When someone suggested I learnt a mental math calculation technique from India, my brain was already frazzled before I even knew what it was, however the system seemed to make everything a lot simpler than the standard way, I even found myself unexpectedly enjoying it.

Unfortunately an hour after learning the technique I’d already forgotten it, also I couldn’t help thinking why can’t I just use a calculator (A mindset of the hi-tech generation that I know definitely upsets my grandparents). 

SO ON TO A NEW WEEK AND NEW YEAR OF NEW THINGS…

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Games

…completed a Sudoku Puzzle

Day 54

Day Fifty-four

Apparently Sudoku has been around since 1895, when it first appeared in a Paris-based daily called La France, but it was not really an international hit until 2005 (This is not my knowledge, but from the completely accurate Wikipedia).  I remember when it first appeared on the back of newspapers and, like Crosswords, I simply thought sod that.

I’ve never been good at puzzles.  I don’t find them enjoyable and often ended up very angry, but I thought I’d give the number-placement challenge a go – reluctantly.

It took me an hour and a half to complete a 3×3 block grid, having never tackled a Sudoku before I had no idea how long it was meant to take, but I imagine that was far too long.  Each time I thought I was close to completing it, I got confused again.  When I finished I felt a slight tinge of satisfaction, but only because I knew I’d never have to do it again.

In Summary: Sudoku? No thank you!

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Uncategorized

…stood whilst watching the Queen’s Speech

Day 53Day Fifty-three

Since I started this quest fifty-three days ago, what to do on Christmas day had always been in the back of my mind.  It’s a day for sharing with the family and sticking to tradition, so going bungee jumping or doing something weird with the turkey didn’t seem appropriate.  I decided I wanted to do something simple that embodied the Christmas spirit of giving.

I was staying at my Grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve, as we would be celebrating Christmas at my Auntie’s place just down the road.  I was partly brought up by my grandparents, so spent a lot of my childhood at their home.  Whenever I stayed over they’d always cook me breakfast, I distinctly remember the way my Nan would yell from the kitchen downstairs “breakfast’s ready!”  I decided, for the first time in my life, I’d get up early and make breakfast for my Grandparents as a gesture of thanks for my spoilt lazy childhood.  I went to bed excited about the next morning – and not because Santa was coming.

The next day I awoke to the familiar sound of “breakfast’s ready”.  I’d overslept – Bugger!

After guiltily eating breakfast, I looked through the Christmas TV guide to see what was on.  Again, I’m aware how spoilt and lazy I’m coming across.  I remember Christmas Television always being exciting as most of the license payers’ money was splashed out by the BBC on showing big budget movies. Nowadays, as there are hundreds of digital channels and movies on demand, it’s slightly lost its appeal; However, I did notice in the listings that the Queen’s Christmas speech was on at 3pm.  I never really watched the Queen’s annual televised message to her minions, so I just hoped I wouldn’t have a festive snooze after Christmas lunch and sleep through another opportunity to do something I’d never done before.

The Queen’s Speech is written by Her Majesty herself, apparently it’s one of the few times in the year she’s allowed to air her own personal views.  The ten minute royal broadcast opened with a picture of Buck House and the sound of the national anthem, so I stood as one should, whilst the rest of family asked if it was time for dessert yet.  As the Queen talked, she reminisced about the year she’d had, speaking of Prince George the new addition to her family, but the more she went on the more I switched off.  She seemed to me (as your servant, I apologise your Majesty) to lack any genuine connection to the words she spoke, I was desperate to feel a sense of real emotion, but perhaps that’s just the British stiff upper lip she is meant to epitomize.  After the speech finished I sat down and wondered whether when Prince William and Harry, as children, stayed at Buckingham Palace, their grandmother would shout up the stairs “Breakfast’s ready” – I doubt it.

In conclusion: I don’t mind that we have a monarchy, but I wish they’d lighten up a bit; it’s Christmas for God’s sake.

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