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). 


Acts of kindness, Uncategorized, Voluteering

…volunteered at a Free Bookshop

ImageDay Fourteen

If I’m brutally honest whenever I’ve been into a charity shop, and that’s not often as I’m a bit of a snob, I’ve always thought the volunteers must either be on community service for mugging old grannies or they’re a little bit nuts.  The idea of working all day to receive no pay or at least some kind of prize ashamedly baffled me.

I was invited by a friend who calls himself Idiot Rich to volunteer with him for a day.  I jumped at the chance as it was something I’ve never done before, and also I wanted to find out how much of idiot he actually is.  We were to help at a bookshop that offers all their books for free; certainly not a business plan that’s Dragon’s Den worthy although I doubt the people running it care as they go by the name The Kindness Offensive.

I met Idiot Rich at Camden Road Station.  We had to take a short bus ride to the free bookshop (I’m not sure it can technically be classed as a shop if no money passes hands, but that’s just being picky) and during the journey I was told a little more about the unpaid job ahead.  He explained the charity saves unwanted books before they head to landfills and instead offers them to the public for free.  The charity don’t wanted another book in return or any donation money, it’s completely free – a pure act of kindness.

I was instructed by Idiot Rich that we would be arranging a large jumble of books into genre sections in the shop and, time permitting, alphabetising them too.  I thought to myself the people running the shop will be very pleased with the free work I’m about to give them and at a bare minimum I’ll get a certificate from the Mayor of London, or at least a party thrown in my honour by the local residents – at this point I still wasn’t quite grasping the concept of working for kindness not reward.

When we arrived at the shop I must admit I was somewhat impressed.  I was expecting a small rundown charity shop with the whiff of damp ginger biscuits in the air, perhaps a crazy bag lady in the corner searching through a pile of odd shoes (all based on my limited experience of charity shops), however the Kindness Offensive’s Free Bookshop is in fact located in a beautifully converted pub.  The former Camden pub has been completely redecorated into a welcoming bright open space with shelved books around the edges and bunting hung from the ceiling.  Parked outside the bookshop there’s an old Route Master Bus that’s been painted in the bright signature colours of the Kind Offensive.  I’m later told they won the bus (I’ve only ever won a pot of jam) and it’s now used to deliver free Christmas presents to children in hospitals – an even kinder act of kindness.

Inside the bookshop I meet two male volunteers both wearing high visibility jackets which is the uniform of their offensive.  One of the men, after I explained I’ve come to volunteer for the day, informs me all I have to is greet people and tell them they are allowed three books for free.  The man then informs me Idiot Rich likes to arrange the books in order which is possibly pointless because the entire shop’s being moved around in few weeks, also you can’t label the sections because for some reason the cleaners don’t like it, and furthermore new books are piled on top of the old ones every day – despite this I begin the task of categorise the books, which now seems like an idiotic way to spend my afternoon.

In general I’m not a big fan of working and tend to find as many distractions as I can before commencing any form of labour.  After reading all the posters on the walls and staring out the window for bit, just like I used to at school during Religious Education, I finally started arranging the books.

As Idiot Rich and I continued organising the books into some kind of order, the other two volunteers sat waiting for someone to enter the shop.  In the almost three hours I was there only five people entered – five people Imagewho were smart enough to realise what a great shop a free shop is.  I overheard one customer ask a volunteer if the books are in any order and he replied “not really”, that’s great I thought to myself.

Later on Rob, who is the leader of the Kindness Offensive and had just returned to the shop in the ‘Funbulance’ (another vehicle they’d wonderfully converted), presented one of the volunteers with a plastic medal for his commitment to being super kind.  At the start of the day I would have murdered for a medal or any kind of recognition for my free work, but I was happy for the man who’d clearly committed more time to kindness than my miserly half-hearted almost three hours.

By the end of my time in the bookshop I was proud of the work Idiot Rich and myself have achieved, even if the customers didn’t notice there was actually a complex system of book arrangement.

I was surprized to find it was great doing something for the community and for a short while being part of something wonderful and, with the fear of sounding cliché, ImageI guess that IS the ultimate payment of volunteering.

The kindness Offensive are awesomely kind people, so if you’re near Camden do go visit their bookshop which will hopefully be there for a long time, or even better why not donate some of your time to them.


P.S. When you enter the bookshop Arts and Crafts are on the left by the entrance, Science Fiction at the back and Novels on the right.