Well if I thought one-minute cold showers was emasculating in producing considerable shrinking of ego, then ten minutes produced ungodly results. The stuff of nightmares! But surprisingly it’s not the cold that kills, it’s the boredom. Three or four-minute showers are the norm in Chez Reed, ten minutes and I was running out of body parts to wash. If anything, the cold made for less surface area to clean. Still, when starting the program I never thought I’d be doing perfectly balanced headstands without tipping on my ass, so there are positives to the Wim Hof Method exercises.
The tome this week is Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, identifying how a product, idea or indeed infection become a pandemic. Alas, he doesn’t cover headstands. The expansive book even covers the evolution of mammalian brain size. Not all mammals, clearly. Robin Dunbar postulates it’s due to social grouping volume: humans live in significant communities, needing to form complex social relationships with not only twenty people, for example, but also how those twenty others interact with one another. In effect, our society demands more processing power. So, if your entire interactions for the last eight weeks amount to exchanging conversation with a succulent about cold showers, like mine have, chances are shrinkage is happening on multiple levels.
Given a busy week at the office, expectations were dialled down this weekend. Activities wholly involved some reading, falling asleep on the couch, waking myself up dribbling (hold yourself back, ladies!) and some walking around the neighbourhood so my belly doesn’t look like I’ve swallowed a cabbage. Or rather, less so. Avoiding the general public remains a hobby. Then of course it’s Week 5 of Wim Hof! I think my flexibility has improved, even if my drawing hasn't. That succulent looks like a hairy biscuit in a cup of tea. Oh, my Christ! I’ve just seen that next week I’m due for ten minutes of cold shower every day. Oooooofff!! I may as well just lop my bits off now.
Favourite Quote this week – “It’s all good talking about staying at home, but we need to start walking the walk. But at home” Colbert.
‘We are all going to die.’ Uplifting, no? Is that buzzing sound positivity zinging through your veins? Oh right, it’s just buzzing. Moving on. Reading affirmations of mortality is shocking, yet hearing it being yelled on an aeroplane by a friend laughing his head off as we try to ‘land’ in horrendous weather will stay with me for eternity. And yes, if you’re wondering, I peeled them off and threw them away afterwards, they were just too soiled to be recoverable.
The truth in the above however has nothing whatsoever to do with the current climate (apart from the buzzing, that’s got plenty to do with it). Our impermanence is inevitable. Far from being negative though, this should be a release, an unbridling of inhibitions that sets you free from restraint. You can do anything! Apart from meet people, or hold hands, or drink in a pub. But anything else! Wearing trackies for weeks at a time? Having a shower once a month whether you need it or not? Live that dream! COVID has launched a resurgence of self-improvement, of people rekindling simple loves like drawing, fitness, reading books you didn’t even know you owned, helping neighbours by giving back all that shit you borrowed over the years. We’re also spending more time with family and making sure we get valuable exercise outside. Naysayers may point to those two being interrelated, reminiscent of Captain Oates’ “I may be some time” and just never returning.
The outpouring of emotion seen across the world, the ‘we’re in this together’ pact is wonderful, albeit mostly ‘together’ in the same house. Far from shutting down, we have become a more caring race, showing compassion and empathy. Well apart from this guy, who remains an epic weapon. For every buck-toothed dribbling baboon of a President there is a counter-balance such as leaders we most want running our own country like Jacinda Ardern and legends like Colonel Tom Moore, fundraising at one hundred years old to raise £30million for the NHS. Let’s put aside the fact he’s raising money for a nationally funded entity bereft of cash, equipment, adequate testing or adequately paid staff, and instead concentrate on the fact he’s captured the hearts and minds worldwide. Leading through example, even at a hundred.
I’ll end with this, from the ludicrously good Sam Harris’ End of Faith which inspired this blog post:
“Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today (within social distancing guidelines), is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”
Among my favourite questions ever directed at anyone came this week when billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates was asked ’in 2015 when you warned us of a pandemic and no one listened . . . what else have you said recently that we haven’t listened to?’ That question from Stephen Colbert made me guffaw loudly. Moving from genius to a different type of intelligence, President d’Orange stepped up his attempt to stop the masses cashing in their unemployment cheques through advocating using disinfectant to clean lungs. Unsurprisingly the Trumpter in Chief refused to answer any questions in his next daily briefing, which was very brief indeed.
Sticking with the United States, so long a beacon to the world of freedom, technological advancement and florid, brazen obesity, they’ve continued to make the world feel better by being an unmitigated disaster. The country will soon have a million cases of COVID, which makes my investment in fifteen pairs of underwear online seem prescient. The only disappointment is that they’re not made of rubber and don’t come up to my nipples, as the extra reinforcement may be needed as the months draw on.
Remaining upbeat, the second series of After-Life, about a man continually crying and contemplating the point of living, began on Netflix. Viewers should be warned there are scenes of an explicit nature such as people gathering in pubs enjoying themselves and strangers shaking hands in public. Perhaps wait for the children to go to bed first. In slightly better news for beleaguered parents facing serious challenges in home-schooling, the BBC have bought education to the masses by creating programs covering the school syllabus. A collective ‘thank god!’ was heard from the mothers and fathers across the world. ‘If we’d known that one day, we would be responsible for the education our own children, we would never have had them!’ they didn’t add.
Taking advantage of the quieter times, I have tried to improve general fitness and lumbar lordosis i.e. having a back like a rippled carpet. Recommended by a good friend, I have found Athlean-X superb for home-exercise videos. Another warning: the host is ripped to fu** and therefore spends an inordinate amount of time with his top off. Send the kids to bed again. I have also found this week that if you do as many push-ups as you can whilst holding your breath, there is a period where a deep, unsettling blackness envelopes your brain. Suffice to say, the Wim Hof Method is taking its toll: seven more weeks to go. I have to admit that the minute-long showers in cold water, intermittent hot then another minute of cold have become easier to tolerate as the week has trudged by. I am fairly certain though that my counting has picked up apace: oooooneee, twwwwoooo, threee . . . thirty-six . . . fiddy-ate, fiddy-n, sxty and out!! The emasculation process has not improved.
Leaving on a high-note, Bill Gates’ response, by the way, was bio-terrorism. Not all doom and gloom eh? Stay home, stay safe, help others.
As we quickly approach midway in 2020 (less than six weeks away!) it’s heartening to know that time travel is possible. Thank fuck for that, I thought we were going to be screwed! Yes, it does involve some graft, granted, but a few weeks in the shed with some strong Yorkshire Tea should about do it. In theory, if we travelled out from Earth for five years at the speed of light then back again (u-turn at Proxima Centauri), although 10 years would have elapsed on the spacecraft, 29 years would have passed here on Earth. It’s an effort, I grant you, but Trump would definitely be out by then. But looking at the basics, for a year to pass . . . Yorkshire Tea, spacecraft, speed of light, four months. Send donations to my Kickstarter page #LetsGetTheFuckOutOfHere
Talking of time moving more slowly, I’m at the end of the second week of the Wim Hof Method, the amazing Iceman performing ‘superhuman’ feats in sub-zero nature. Wim comes across as an honest, scientific, energetic man, but I’ll be honest and say that starving myself of oxygen to start my day isn’t as appealing as it sounds. It’s almost as if our bodies want us to breathe! Two weeks down, cold showers embraced, breath holding for two and a half minutes. As a pick me up I started Sam Harris’ End of Faith, which is shaping up nicely to ruin all religion if Tom Paine’s Age of Reason didn’t stamp any last scintilla of faith already. Incidentally, cold showers leave much to be desired and have a time-travel experience all of their own: if I wanted to recall what I was like when five years old, all I have to do is look down in a cold shower. Totally emasculating. Am barely a male.
Taking advantage of spending more time at home, I’ve started drawing again, with the aim of adding cartoons to the blog. Bear with me! In trying to get more exercise over the last few weeks, I’ve started running, beating my personal best around a local track of four kilometres. It sounds great, but near the end I was passed by a tub of lard, shuffling along eating ice-cream. I had a sprint finish, thrashing my nemesis by inches. As I panted for breath at the last post, my heart climbing out of my mouth to get some fresh air, he just kept on plodding, lighting a cigarette. Utterly demoralising.
What am I listening to? The Grudge by Tool.
What am I watching? The occasional Steve Colbert and Have I Got News For You
What am I wearing? Same as everyone else, nothing from the waist down.
Does anyone else hold their breath when passing others in the street? A glimmer of sunshine and everyone is out, so I’m wheezing like an asthmatic set of plump bagpipes out there! Trying to remain upbeat as death-tolls hit 100,000 worldwide is, admittedly, a challenge. On the other hand, all those times I woke up and declared loudly, “God, I don’t want to go to work today!” Well, it seems the Lord heard me. It may have taken a while, but they were listening. For most the act of physically going to work has been eradicated, go Jesus!! Also, you may have in fact lost your job entirely. #MysteriousWays
The current situation around the world is remarkably shit. I admire British Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson’s undercover investigation into the NHS, although for a minute he looked like he would be a bit too undercover. Health services are on the brink, cities and parks are abandoned or being used as makeshift cemeteries, governments struggle to piece together pay-relief for the unemployed, and I am down to my last three sheets of toilet paper. Should be all right for another week, if I clench. But there is good news! Firstly, covid is all lies, so . . . phew, ammarite! Secondly, there has never been a better time to buy into stocks! Or hold. Or cash-out. Basically, no one knows. As legendary hedge fund manager Ray Dalio confirmed, we’re in the worst situation humanity has encountered in ninety years and although the current situation feels bleak, things will only get worse. Awesome.
Being sickeningly optimistic, I’ve been keeping myself busy: starting Wim Hof’s 10 week course to become a snowman, which essentially involves holding your breath a lot so far, which the world is collectively doing anyway; writing daily to finish the second book; running again (away from COVID, mostly); reading about the Blitz to understand my father’s childhood; and surfing the internet for a plethora of crap I will never need or use or even want, but purchase anyway. The latter is about 90% of my day. However, the remarkable rise in unprecedented global philanthropy hasn’t escaped me: thousands of free ‘get-fit at home’ videos flood the internet; neighbours across the globe introduced themselves, apologised for ignoring one another for the last ten years, and asked if they needed anything; Jack Dorsey donated $1bn to Covid-19 relief; celebrities sang a song as a nice gesture; the world was repulsed by said gesture; British comedians in true fashion set fire to it, danced on its ashes and used the remnants of the idea as loo paper.
Apropos of nothing, I am down to two sheets. Fortunately, I won’t be shaking hands with anyone for a while anyway. Or ever. Always a bright side! Stay safe everyone x
It’s hard to see positives in a pandemic, but there are some. A bucketload of negatives, naturally, but here are my Top 5 to bring some sunshine!
“For the love of God, stop going out!” and “you have to stay away from those people, they are bad news!” isn’t what I envisaged yelling at my parents at any point in my life. And yet here we are, the class of 2020, where we’re now all reminiscing at the clusterfuck of 2016 with doe-eyed happiness. Remember when only all those celebrities we really loved died? Sigh! Stock-markets are tanking, governments the world over are foundering for coherence under the mildest of questioning, and with some irony, people are selling their ass on street-corners for a clutch of toilet paper. If that surprises you, you should see what they’re offering for the unused stuff.
The world over, the virus has struck with equal veracity. Tens of thousands of cases are evident in China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, the United States and France. Yet one country stands our cleanly above the rest, with those canny Deutschlanders only having deaths in their scores instead of hundreds. Asked how they did it, the German Ambassador claimed, “Well we are all very clean people, we wash our hands very much. Isn’t that right, Hans?”
Awful puns aside, as if there are any other kind of puns, many women of course are welcoming the virus with both sweet-smelling hands, the female species seeing the outbreak of a pandemic the last-ditch attempt for men to finally wash their fucking mitts after going for a pee. Guys, letting your hands “air-drying” isn’t a thing! Go on, don’t wash your hands, I double-dare you! But before you do that, just sign this small piece of paper here . . . and here . . . and here. And date it there. And good luck!
And lo, with the world gone to hell in unclean-hand-basket, we call on the leaders of the free world to show the righteous path. Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and seemingly one of the only world leaders radiating a modicum of trust, read a message to the nation. Look how measured, composed and assured Jacinda is. Oh, and in her first ever term as leader, Jacinda has made decriminalised abortion, banned semi-automatic weapons and been seen as a beacon of light for the Muslim world under a terrorist attack. Doesn’t every country deserve a Jacinda?
#LetsGetMoreYoungWomenInOfficeCosIAmSickOfTheseUselessBastards is not trending. Yet.
Aside from coughing all over everyone, the most important thing for me was simply not ruining the wedding with anything inappropriate. Any onset of Tourette’s would at best be perceived as a wry-joke, at worst a total clusterfuck. It’s good to start off with lofty goals like that when embarking your first ever, and maybe last ever, Master of Ceremonies gig.
I had been asked by a dear friend months ago if I would MC her wedding, and immediately said yes before the fear could set in. Once you’re committed, the rest will just ease on by . . . right? I spent the next few months jotting down ideas, culminating in a whopping three tiny paragraphs. I had known them ten years and had three paragraphs – pathetic! Since preparation is key for these things, so I imagined, I expected the bride and groom to send through things like run-sheets and speeches in advance. Alternatively, I could receive the finalised schedule the night before and the one speech I was to make on the morning of the wedding. Saaa-weet.
The day continued to be full of surprises: the bride and groom were very, very relaxed and calm, which was odd but welcome; driving the bride to the wedding and learning her family hadn’t arrived, I did laps of the countryside with said a sweary bride; expecting forty guests, there were a team of ninety-strong to usher, corral and harangue; my duties would span almost eight hours instead of a few introductions and sitting-the-f***-down. And boy, did those guests need herding, like children at a party: “Oi, what did I just say? What did I JUST say?! . . . Dinner was supposed to be at 7, where have you been?! . . . You can’t smoke there, go around the side of the building! . . . Put that chainsaw down right now!” Kids, eh?
And you know what? It was great fun. Far from being fearful, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, speaking with as many guests as I could, shaking-hands like a presidential hopeful, and fully acted the confident MC I wanted to be! Pushing myself into uncomfortable once again providing worth the cost, in this case quite literally since I’d had to travel from New York to Melbourne, over twenty-five hours of flights for this event.
It did reignite though the love of writing, of crafting a joke and the need to stand up and speak, basically a want to make others laugh. When crowds aren’t a thing with coronavirus tearing the arse out of the world, laughs and public gatherings are going to be hard to come by. Maybe people can email in their mirth. Or lack of it, a stony silence being as good a measure of enjoyment levels as any. That or a cough.
Am getting back on the wagon after my hiatus: writing my book again; writing anything again; reading Tom Paine’s Age of Reason; curating my hundreds of photos taken in North America (above); gym; tennis; swimming; eating healthy; walking lots; spending time with friends and family; wrestling pasta out of the hands of families in the supermarket. Just because the world is falling over, no reason to stop pursuing your passions (the past one is a new hobby, admittedly). Apropos of nothing, on a serious note, when you do go shopping, just because you’re worried there may be little supplies, try not to be a complete arsehole: treat others kindly; share a 24 pack of toilet roll; encourage the elderly to the front of the queue. Go to it.
As you may have noticed with a drop in posts, I’ve recently struggled with balance! With a few months out in the US seeing friends and family, taking photos as much as I can to improve (the more photo you take, the luckier you get!) writing has taken a back-seat. It’s always there though, lurking in the back of the car, wanting to reach over and grab the wheel again like something escaped from the asylum. It’s a fun place, my mind!
In between all that, I made a break-through for my fear of flying. Admittedly something genuinely useful like solving world hunger, climate change or discovering the hallowed temple of lost Tupperware lids may have been more impactful, but needs must. For many years, with the slightest bit of turbulence my soul withers. Once I even burst into tears with my heart fighting its way out of my chest. That was a tough flight, especially as it was a work-trip and I need to compose myself upon landing. However, this changed in the last few weeks in the most bizarre of circumstances.
In my last post, I wrote about Disneyland. In summation, I would like to say I was brave, courageous and other positive aspects whilst everyone else cowered, but fearless eleven-year-old girls pretty much made sure I couldn’t back out of any ride with my hide intact. I don’t like rollercoasters, all the jostling, jerking and screaming, and that’s just the queue. The actual ride is terrifying! And yet . . . I survived. The experiences were far worse than anything I’d been through whilst flying, with drops of several seconds and fear taking a vice like grip on my bottom. I never knew that much clenching was possible. I could crack walnuts! (what walnuts would be doing there I’m unsure . . . think I’ve strayed from the point). With two small flights of only two hours each coming up, I thought I would try to steer away from the drugs. I wanted to experiment. I like to think it was tantamount to being afraid of snakes and then lying in a coffin full of them, but it was probably closer to eating a pork-pie despite a gluten intolerance. Danger!
Over the coming weeks I took flights from Los Angeles to Denver, onto Milwaukee, onto New York, and then three more back across the country. For the big jaunt from Los Angeles back to Australia I subjected my body to a single dose of drugs as I needed to sleep (not mastered that bit yet) but otherwise was fine, glued to watching films constantly and barely noticing the thrashing about of the aircraft through some turbulent skies. Each time I would reassure my soul, tell myself it was all right. Usually on a flight that distant I’d take three sets of drugs and be barely conscious as I ambled from one plane to the next. Improvement!
So there you go, a lesson for young players. For those afraid of flying, what do you think – a gamble worth trying? Stark raving lunacy? Next up . . . goddamn Tupperware lids!
Disneyland: hours and hours of wonderful queues stretching for eons around corners yet to be discovered - a British paradise. People chatter around me, nervous and excited, what can only be described as gallows humour. Unfortunately, it’s then punctured by two or three minutes of sheer, pant-wetting terror, with my mind spinning still as I write this, a whole twenty-hours after the event. “What the hell was that last one called?” I mumble to my friend, staggering from the ride, like the last strides of a proud lion after being darted by hefty tranquiliser. “Teacups.”
I am no joyrider or rollercoasterer. Peak enjoyment for me comes with a strong cup of tea after sex, both enhanced immeasurably if it’s with someone else. It’s my first theme park in perhaps twenty years, and I’d never been on a rollercoaster that had even gone upside down. At the penultimate ride of the day, where my brain was utterly addled after ten hours of pure hostility and savagery, I joined an extensive line for the Guardians of the Galaxy: Breakout ride. Whilst I quite like the related films, my nervousness wasn’t sedated by my friend (now ex-friend, admittedly) telling me that the ride used to be called House of Terrors or Hotel of Hell, or something equally unappealing. Tagging along with two eleven-year-old girls for the day, daughters of someone or other my friend knew, I had spent the entire day using them as a barometer of judgement: if a ride looked too scary for them, I could also back out. Unfortunately, the little bastards had indomitable spirits, and am convinced that they were in fact fierce pigmy warriors of unfathomable courage that backed out of nothing.
Sitting in a large box along with perhaps twenty others, the aim of the ride is to plummet you vertically up and down approximately four thousand metres* until you hate life, or at least that’s what I felt. The action was then repeated ad infinitum. At the very top of the building (God, I can still feel my head swimming even now) there is a moment of tranquillity, a scion of peace. With my thoughts nothing but mush after being beaten to a pulp, we were treated momentarily to a serene vista overlooking Disneyland. All glittering lights and splendour, peaceful pin-pricks of light amongst the darkness. I had enough time for an inner monologue to start, ‘that’s nice, what a pretty view! Why are those people raising their hands excitedly? . . . oh, there’s a camera, I better crowbar my hands away from the grab-rail and give a thumbs up like a brave fellow. Uh-oh . . .’
I was a little late to contort every muscle in my body, including a few new ones I’d grown in my anus for this particular ride, but managed to keep all fluids inside where they should be as we fell the full height of the building. Whilst my teeth clenched with the same incalculable force as my buttocks were mustering, around me my friend hollered with excitement and the kids screamed in delight. Checking the photograph afterwards, there is an ashen, stupid, stupid man, with thumbs up, a portrait of a defeated idiot that doesn’t know what’s coming to him. It’s a testament to my character that a month into my American adventure, I haven't changed a bit.
Writing and writing...