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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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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celebrities, strangers, Uncategorized

…sent fan mail to a celebrity

Day Forty-six

Day 46

Janet Street-Porter

C/O United Agents Ltd

12-26 Lexington Street

London

W1F 0LE

18th December 2013

 

Dear Janet Street-Porter,

Since the 3rd November 2013 I’ve been attempting to try something I’ve never done before every day for one year.  I wanted to undertake this personal challenge in order to appreciate what life has to offer if you take constant risks, although if I’m completely honest I mainly started this because I was bored whilst trying to look for a job.

It was suggested, by a friend, that perhaps I’d never written a fan letter to a celebrity before and that I should give it a go – so this is me doing just that.  I never had a famous idol when I was growing up and have never really followed celebrity culture, but for some reason I knew immediately I wanted to write to you.

To be truthful, as a fan, I know less about your work as a journalist and editor than I probably should, my opinions are based solely from your television appearances.  I’m aware it’s probably hard to judge a person’s character from what is portrayed through the media, and perhaps a little unfair, but to me you seem like someone who’s consistently truthful to who they really are; a refreshing quality in the world of celebrity.  I feel you’re prepared to take a chance by airing your thoughts honestly, without allowing the consequences to be a major obstacle, whilst maintaining your natural wit and your unique outlook on life.

I think you’re a truly great British celebrity, even if you never set out to be one, so I wanted to take this opportunity to say I’m your fan.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Neil Foster.

 

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Acts of kindness, Big issuse, Poverty, strangers

…sponsored a child

Day 41Day Forty-one

I have a tendency to, rather embarrassingly, overwhelming cry during particular scenes in certain films.  One such scene that’s guaranteed to turn me into a blubbering halfwit is the final five minutes of the 2002 movie About Schmidt.

The film tells the story of Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), a retired man who’s led a safe and predictable existence working in insurance, but after the death of his wife he embarks on a road trip and discovers more about himself and life than he ever expected (I pretty much pasted all this synopsis from IMDB).  The scene that turns me into a wailing fool is when he receives a letter from a child he’s sponsored in Tanzania.  After Schmidt’s road trip of discovery he comes to the conclusion that his life has been a failure, however when he reads the letter of gratitude from the child he realises his small action of sponsorship has made his life worthy.  With that film in mind I decided to sponsor a child, which I’d never done before.

The first child sponsorship website I Googled presented a gallery of children from which you could select whom you wanted to help, I found this a slightly unsavoury task.  Each child seemed like they’d be told to look more dishevelled than the other, like it was a strange poverty auction.  I decided to try another website.  The next charity wanted £25 a month donation, so I looked for another site (I want to help, but I’m not made of money).

I settled on the charity ActionAid as their sponsorship starts at only £15 a month.  I really don’t have much money at the moment so I had to cancel my monthly Spotify subscription in order to keep up my donation, this seemed a better use of my funds than paying for uninterrupted music.  The ActionAid website gave me the choice of which country I wanted to sponsor a child from, again I found this hard to choose so I selected the option ‘country where help is most needed’ and let fate decide.

I’m now sponsoring eight year old Marzia who lives in Bamyan, Afghanistan.  I’ve been invited to write a letter and also told I’m welcome to visit, but I think a weekend trip in Afghanistan maybe a little risky.  I hope my donation helps and isn’t just spent on guns or sweets.

ON TO THE NEXT NEW THING…

P.S. the scene from the film Billy Elliot, where his dad crosses the picket line to work in mines so his son can fulfil his dream to be a dancer, also rather embarrassingly makes me blub.  I’m not sure why I’m confessing to all this, I really don’t have to.

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Dating, strangers, Uncategorized

…tried to get a stranger’s phone number

Day 37Day Thirty-seven

I’ve never been good at chatting up women, in my head I think I’m really good, but the reality is I’m rubbish.

I was in a pub, once again panicking for a new daily task as time was rapidly passing, when a friend asked if I’d ever approached a stranger to ask for their phone number.  When I said no my friend reacted like he was The Fonz from Happy Days, claiming he gets numbers all the time and couldn’t believe I’d never done it. I had no way of telling if he was talking nonsense, I imagined he was, but I certainly knew I’d never been brave enough to do it.

I was quite nervous and also slightly concerned as the choice of women in the pub was very limited.  They were three French girls, possibly on a foreign exchange scheme, who appeared a little too young to be in the bar.  My French is below basic and also the fear of Operation Yew tree knocking on my door meant I left them alone.  There were two attractive women, both with their boyfriends of course.  There was my mate’s sister, which I was informed I couldn’t ask as that’d be cheating.  And, around a table in the far corner, there were three girls who seemed to be on their own, clearly they’d have to be my ‘target’.

I kept finding excuses not to go over.  I don’t know why I was so nervous, I have ‘chatted’ women up before – it’s a very British and slightly odd turn of phrase ‘chatted up’ – but I’ve never just approached a women in a bar and said something like “Hey Hot Lips, I like the cut of your jib, can I get your number?”, or whatever a true Casanova might say. I was unsure what was the worst that could happen to me, I guess only rejection, unless of course she was so repulsed by the idea she pulled out a ritual sword and committed ‘harry carry’ in the middle of the bar. Anyway I only had five minutes left so I went over, or rather I was dragged over by my friends

I started talking to one of the girls, I’ve forgotten her name already, in fact I forgot it at the time as I wasn’t really listening just thinking at some point, very soon, I’d have to say “Hey, it’s been real nice chatting to you, what’s your number? Perhaps we could meet up sometime, Vis-à-vis, you and me, one on one”, I kept thinking of the character David Brent from The Office and it was really putting me off.

She’d just finished doing a show in a theatre above the pub so we talked about that, which was easy, but I could never find a time to boldly state my flirtatious intentions.  The more she talked and the more I wasn’t listening, the more time ticked past until inevitably midnight came and went – too late. The bar closed, I said goodbye and we parted and I was disappointed I never managed to utter the simple sentence “can I have your number?”

In conclusion: I certainly haven’t found my ‘sparkle’ yet, but I have got three hundred and twenty-eight days to go, so no panic.

P.S. I’ve completed the course of JIA WEI XIAO YAO WAN pills the Chinese Medicine man gave me.  I haven’t noticed much difference, but I have felt quite lethargic recently and my wee has gone a funny colour.  I probably wouldn’t recommend them.

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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: http://uptownswing.co.uk

ON TO THE NEXT NEW THING…

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

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