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.

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!

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). 


Dance, Fitness, strangers, Uncategorized

…been to a Lindy Hop Dance Class (and looked like a right prat)

Day Thirty

Dancing seems to have got popular once again.  The ‘hip-hop’ youth of today can earn ‘big up massive respect’ from the rest of ‘da gang’ by body popping and flinging their arms around in a style similar to dance troupe Diversity – essentially they’re all just doing the Robot from the 1980’s, but they weren’t around then so I won’t judge them.

I must admit I do like ‘throwing some shapes’ on the dance floor and I always think I look pretty cool, although I imagine I look more like I’ve just mastered ‘dad dancing’.  As much as I like waving my limbs around in a club or at a wedding, organised sober dancing is very much out of my comfortable zone.

I’d been invited to learn how to dance in a 1930’s fashion and was quite nervous about attending my first Lindy Hop class.  I knew Lindy Hop was a form of partner dancing so I was expecting to make a complete fool of myself in front of a group of coordinated dancers.

At the start we were split into two groups, Leaders and Followers.  I was really hoping to be a follower and just copy someone else, but being a man I was told to learn the leader’s moves – bugger!  Once we learnt the basic steps we were told to find a partner and instantly I forgot everything we’d just be taught as, once again, I was too busy in my head worrying how much of tit I looked.  I partnered up with a friend who I knew was also a complete novice and hoped we’d just get through the evening without anyone noticing, however after three minutes my plan failed as we were told to switch partners and to my horror I realised eventually I would be dancing with every follower in the room.Day 30

The second partner I had didn’t seem to know what was going on either so this filled me with a bit more confidence, but as I was supposed to be leading I imagine it was mainly my fault that we both got completely lost.  Another dance partner seemed really unimpressed by my complete lack of co-ordination, I think she was expecting me to be a bit more Frankie Manning, founding father of Lindy Hop, but instead I was a bit more like Boris Johnson at a disco – I apologised profusely.   I must admit I quite fancied one of girls I was forced to dance with and every time I partnered with her I turned into an awkward bumbling idiot, bit like Hugh Grant in one of those many films where he plays an awkward English prat – I’m not sure my moves impressed her in the slightest.

By the end of class I actually quite enjoyed myself.  Despite still having no idea of any of the steps, I came to the conclusion if I smiled enough nobody would notice my legs were in a giant knot.

If you fancy dancing around in a retro style with a load of strangers, then I’d highly recommend visiting:


P.S. I apologise for my attempt at ‘street talk’ at the start of this post.


Day 18

On day eighteen I discover I really do need a proper camera and must learn how to edit videos.

Running backwards took a little longer than I expected, but was quite a journey. I was nearly attacked by two dogs, searched for a missing cat, came close to death and was abused by some children.

I challenge you to watch the whole twenty minute, without fast forwarding, then afterwards you’ll no longer be able to say “I HAVE NEVER…watched a man run backwards for one mile”.

It will be very boring and timewasting but I guess no more than playing Angry Birds or scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed for twenty minutes.

Fitness, Uncategorized

…Attended my friend’s yoga class at 7.15am (ridiculously early)

Day SixImage

Day six of what is possibly my life changing attempt to try something new each day, but I still feel a little guilty about yesterday’s snooze until 11.40am.  I’m never going to change my life just lying in bed all day, although I’m not sure I am actually setting out to change my life at the moment I guess I’m just seeing what happens over the next year.

I’ve always loved being in bed, in fact most of my twenties was spent sleeping – a decade happily snoozed away.  So, in order to get me out of bed I sign up to my friend Lucy’s yoga class in the City of London at 7.15am.  In order to be on time I have to wake at 6am.  I imagine all the friends of mine that are young parents (for the record I don’t have a child although I guess that’s obvious) will read this and think  “6am? Big deal!  Come try this bloody baby business for awhile”.

A lot of my friends who are in their early thirties are now starting to have babies.  I imagine to my grandparents thirty seems like a late age to have a child, but I guess we are a generation of late starters.  I personally don’t have a current desire to procreate although I’m very aware that if I don’t then I will kill my Family Tree.  I’m an only child (again I guess that’s obvious) and as far as I’m aware there’s nobody else to continue the family name so I do feel a slight sense of responsibility, but for now I’m secretly enjoying the idea of a chart showing years’ worth of family history leading all the way to just me.  As I don’t have a baby, and I could add that in the order of new things to try (I’ll put it in pencil on the list rather than in pen), getting up at 6am was quiet a task.

During the night I had dream that I’m running late for Yoga and when I arrive the class has finished.  My friend Lucy, whilst stepping into an old style lift, says “Typical Neil, just what I was expecting”.  She closes the gate to the old style lift (a bit like the one Tim Curry comes down in in the film Rocky Horror Picture Show) and I watch her disappear as the lift descends.  The exact symbolic meaning of this dream I’m not sure, perhaps I’ll ring my old Psychic friend Margret although I’m not certain she does dream analysis, but I’m fairly sure it meant I was going to be late.  I woke up at 6am so convinced by the dream that I nearly went back to sleep and admittedly felt contend that I’d missed having to workout at stupid-o-clock.  When I realised it was all a dream,  I ran out of the front door and left the house; this time in proper clothes rather than just a dressing gown.

When I arrive at the Yoga Centre I’m greeted with a nice looking studio and classic yogi chilled vibes playing in the background.  I must confess at this point I have done Yoga before so this is not completely new to me, however this the first time I’ve done my friends class at seven in the morning.

I’ve been to Yoga twice before.  The first time was when I was in India – I’m aware how middle-class I once again sound and also that the phrase “When I was I India” my make many people want to punch me in my clichéd face.  The second time I tried Yoga was in London when I decided it was time to get fit, but if I’m honest with myself I was only really going because I fancied the teacher.  Looking back I’m not too sure any woman would be impressed with the sight of me sweating whilst trying to put my leg behind my head.

The times I have done Yoga before we’ve just been given a Yoga mat to use and nothing else.  This time we are told to collect from the side of the room a mat, a blanket, a sausage shaped cushion and a strap – all tools which are traditionally used to commit someone to a mental institute.  This was different to what I’d done before so the nerves creeped in once again.

As the class/practice/session starts I’m not really listening to the instructions instead I’m just stuck in my head thinking “I hope nobody else is judging me”.  I should have listened to the instructions because the instructions were to get out of your head and concentrate on your body and breathing.  As the practice/class/session continues I actually get into, only occasionally have to glimpse to the person next to me to see if I’m doing it right.  I hope the person next to me wasn’t also glimpsing at me for help otherwise we both got it wrong.

The highlight of the session/practice/class is at the end when we lie on our backs covered with the blanket and the sausage-cushion under our heads.  We close our eyes and RELAX.  There’s music playing that reminds me of ‘when I was in India’.  We are told to let our minds go.  I’ll be honest I got a bit carried away.  I imagined I was floating freely in space in my dressing gown looking down on the beautiful planet Earth slowly rotating, everything peaceful and calm. It seems I’d become a slave to the hippy yogi vibes…and I was quite happy about it.

I felt slightly dissatisfied with my day’s task as technically it wasn’t something I have never done before (the whole point of this).  To make up for it Lucy took me to a nearby coffee shop where she introduced me to a drink I’ve never had; something new.  It was a Matcha Latte, which is basically a coffee with powdered green tea in it.  I took a sip and thought it tasted quite nice and then said goodbye to my lovely friend.  As I walked back towards home I took a couple more sips of my drink and thought to myself “No, actually this tastes of shit”.

At the end of Yoga, Lucy said to the class the following words:

May our practice help us to be kinder

more truthful beings

and may we go out into the world

and teach peace by example

…so this is me doing as instructed.

Fitness, Uncategorized

…followed a 1980’s Jane Fonda workout video

Day 4Day Four

So far this week I’ve been in touch with the spirits, of the ghostly kind, and helped the homeless – now time for a workout.

I have never worked out to an exercise video.  I worry someone will walk in whilst I’m doing it, making me look like a complete nobhead (must learn not to care what people think), but mainly I haven’t done it because I’m lazy.

Once again I turned to the internet for help as old-school VHS workout videos are hard to get hold of these days, in fact they are retro so I imagine they’re now more expensive than their original price.  My first line of investigation on the internet is Davina McCall, I’ve heard she loves a good workout. I look for her life-changing videos on YouTube and quickly discover why Davina is so rich.  There are no full workout videos just trailers advertising her full video – Savvy McCall.

I don’t want to go on about Davina McCall, British TV presenting royalty that she is, but I did once share a MOMENT with her.  I was working as Santa Claus in a Christmas grotto (a very desperate time) when Davina came in with her young daughter.  She sat next to me whilst the daughter told me what she wanted for Christmas. Now I can’t promise that in my head I didn’t pretend I was married to Davina and this was our child, bit weird I know, particularly as I don’t even fancy her but that was what was happening in my head at the time.

So, who could I turn to next to achieve my home alone afternoon workout (I really should be looking for a job).  I found Jordon/Katie Price’s workout video, and after watching the YouTube clip for about two minutes I nearly jumped out of the window with the window still closed.  I then messaged my fitness instructor friend who suggests the Holy Grail, the grandmother of exercise – Jane Fonda and her 80’s classic ‘Jane Fonda’s workout (for beginners)’.

The opening sequence to Jane Fonda’s video was possible the most euphoric 80’s experience of my life.  Music, which would not be out of place on any level of Sonic the Hedgehog, plays as the camera pans around a Fame style dance studio.  Attractive women dressed in brilliantly bright lyrica high-five each other as men in worryingly tight shorts jump up and down a bit…and then the camera settles on FONDA.  Instant love.

At the start of the video there’s some ‘wonderful’ computer graphics followed by a disclaimer, which I wasn’t expecting, from the production company stating they are not responsible for any damage or loss.  I feel I’ve taken this task on too lightly.  We start with a warm-up, of course.  The Sonic the Hedgehog music combined with excited whooping and cheering from the professional exercise types on the screen catches me by surprise – I feel really happy, or is it borderline pissing myself laughing.  This was not the only surprise, after the warm-up and when things started getting a bit serious a singer called Leslie Lilien (no idea) steps forward and starts singing.  Fonda encourages us to sing along at home whilst we work out.  These are the words from the chorus:

There’s so much more to you than meets the eye

There’s so much more in you you’re going to try (appropriate on my new things challenge)

There’s so much more living, living, living

Living, living for yoooooou

Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it

I singing along, half-heartedly, all the time thinking please don’t let my flatmates come home right now. Incidentally I’ve also closed the blinds as I don’t want people walking past and me being THAT GUY in the window (again, must work on not caring what strangers think)

At one point we are made to hold our hips and flick our legs from side to side just like PSY of Gangnam Style fame, in fact almost too similar to PSY of Gangnam Style fame.  I’m on to you cheeky Jane Fonda movement stealing South Korean.

Half-way through, and what sadly I thought was near the end, things got tough but Fonda knows this (she’s good, real good) and her voice is heard over the top of the workout, in an obi-wan Kenobi style, saying gently “keep going you can do it”.  So I keep going until finally we reach the end.  We all cheer together and I’m made to shout allowed “I did it”, I feel like a right idiot.  But I did do it and can now no longer say I’ve have never workout with Jane Fonda.

So just remember: There’s much more to you than meets the eye, so just do it do it do it.