No! No! Don't worry chaps! I've got them all.

They're currently enjoying the spider equivalent of Glastonbury in my house, although I didn't see a ticket from any of them.

I shudder to think where their portaloos are.

Site Development Halted
Blogger seem to only want me to be able to get at half of the HTML for my site, so no more pictures for a while.
Ah well.

For The Love Of Shiny Things

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Author’s note:
Don’t consider the language in this entry obscene. Consider it expressive. Especially you, Mum.
This is a long blog entry. I have tried to make reading it worth your while.

I have a medal. It’s bronze.

The Three Peaks Challenge, or, rather more properly, the ‘British Fire Service Sub-24hr Three Peaks Challenge’ wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

Well, in terms of having to climb three fuck-off big mountains in a limited space of time it was exactly what I was expecting, but what in my imagination I had pictured it as and what it in fact turned out to be were very different.

All Really Slow Engineers
As a relatively inexperienced team, we should have been started on Ben Nevis in the late afternoon, at around 5pm, so we could climb and descend before dark. For some reason, and I think maybe someone in our group told a couple of ego-massaging fibs about their experience, we were started off at 7pm, giving us three and a half hours to climb and get off the tallest mountain in the British Isles before darkness fell.

We began to worry when we noticed that the only teams still hanging around with us when we were getting ready were firemen built-like-brick-shithouses with legs like barrels. Even bloody fell-running teams started before us. God knows what must have gone through the minds of the Marshals as we lined up at the starting line. Perhaps they thought we had a secret weapon. Jet-packs in the rucksacks, maybe.

Half-way up Ben Nevis it was clear that things were not as they should be with one of our five-strong team. He was lagging behind, taking impromptu solo breaks and generally having a hard time of it. With an extremely tight deadline to meet in terms of not wanting to be stuck on the mountain at night, and all of the firemen teams streaming past us at a rate of knots, we had to make a decision. At the half-way point, we waited until one of the earlier teams came past going down, and sent him with them. They just happened to be a team of female student nurses, and his whole demeanour changed the second they rounded the bend. Strange.

Our speed-anchor was gone and we had some time to make up. Now it became obvious that I was the new slowest member of the group. Fair enough, I thought. Put the four fastest men on earth together and one of them is going to be the slowest, right? I tried to be upbeat about it. I sang to myself to try and keep a rhythm for the climbing, to try and find ‘the zone’. No luck. I kept having to take breaks, but I tried to keep them short.

After an hour from the half-way point, we were in blindingly white clouds. Visibility was, as they say at the Met Office, zero: that point when you look down and can only just make out your feet. I have a question for our distinguished meteorological colleagues:
What do you get if you start with ‘zero visibility’, and then it goes dark?

We kept on. I kept pushing, pushing, pushing, trying to find the zone, but the mountain just kept going. It was massive. It was demoralising. It was a fucking nightmare.

Then I found the zone.
At the top.

I stood on the round stone dais, leant against the Trig point, ate a Mars bar whilst being the highest person in the British Isles, yelled ‘I’m the King of The World!’, and felt much better. We ran almost all the way down, navigating by dropped banana skins and patches of snow.

We were the last team off the mountain, finishing our first climb at midnight.
That was one down. Two to go.

Summary of the rest of the 24hrs:
o Six hour drive to Scafell Pike in the Lake District. Dozed a little. (I wasn’t driving)
o Sunny dawn when started, climbed Scafell Pike in shorts only to find more cloud and wind chill factor taking temperature down to –5 degrees at the top. Wasn’t in the mood for being King of The World. Left knee froze up. (In a cartilage-y way, not a cryogenic-kinda way)
o Came down Scafell Pike really slowly, trying to use only right knee. ¾ of way down left knee recovers. Right knee now fucked.
o Five hour drive to Snowdon. Slept all the way with knees above head.
o Fifth team member rejoins group. Everyone else now knackered, No.5 now sets the pace. Overtaken twice by same group of Gurkhas-in-training as they do laps with 100lb packs. Very demoralising.
o Reached the peak of Snowdon 22hrs 50 minutes after starting out on Ben Nevis the day before. Recieve bronze medal. No clouds at the top of Snowdon. High winds, the view, the pointy nature of the peak and the fatigue were all enough to make me have to grip trig point in gut-wrenching fear of falling off.
o Yell ‘I’m the King of the Fucking World, Alright?’. Feel a bit better.
o Miss last train down mountain, have to walk three miles to nearest town.

I can confidently say that it was the most physically demanding twenty-four hours I have had in my life...apart from that time with the two Russian girls from Arthur Vick...but enough about that.

We raised an as-yet-indeterminately large sum of money for the London Air Ambulance. You had to complete the challenge in under 22hrs to get a silver medal, and under 20hrs to get a gold medal.
We did feel a bit disappointed.

We felt we could have done it in under 22hrs if it hadn’t been for the darkness on Ben Nevis and one of the guys dropping out at the start, and who knows how fast we’d have been if we hadn’t been out on the piss until 3am the night before we started?

The Calm Before The Storm

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I survived the Three Peaks, but that's all I'm going to reveal today, as I wrote a full blog entry on it last night but left it at home.

Will post it tomorrow.

Man, mountains are big.

Exciting Geography

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I head up to Fort William (that's in Scotland by the way) tomorrow, to begin the Three Peaks Challenge on Sunday.

We will climb Ben Nevis (1344 metres high last time anyone checked), come back down (that bit's important) drive to and climb Scafell Pike (978 metres) come down (again quite important to remember to do that bit) and then drive to and climb Snowdon (1085 metres).

At this point we are allowed to stop.
All of the above has to be done inside of 24 hours.

Wish me luck.

Piccies
Have finally provided a bit of visual stimulation for The Autoblography above and beyond my own deranged ramblings.
More soon.

The Isle of Wight Festival

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Everyone, I imagine, has at least one song for which the act of listening is almost a transportation.

A song that awakes a vivid memory and is so strongly associated with a certain time in your life that the two are inseparable...to hear is to remember, and to remember is to relive.

I know a lot of people listen to music in colours...for me the opening guitar riff to Counting Crows’ ‘Mr. Jones’ is a stream of yellow and gold, and that gold is the morning sunshine of the spring of my second sixth form year at Medina High.

The day is bright as full summer, but the air is cool and crisp - you feel alert, more alive.

For me that memory is always there, even if listening to the song so much since then has put a lot of memories in there with it.

Now...imagine you are IN your memory, and the artists who gave you your nostalgia-hotwiring tune are in there with you, playing the song. Over the trees across the river the sun is setting behind the hospital where you were born.

Instead of the memory coming from the song, the song...and the band, had come to the memory, and I stood there, in the throng, revelling in the knowledge that no one there was enjoying this mind-blowingly amazing sensation in quite the way I was.

It was a good gig.

The rest of the weekend

Festivals are pretty damned good fun at the best of times, and at the worst of times you can generally remember the wise words of Eric Idle - ‘Worst things happen at sea you know! Cheer up you old bugger.’. This weekend was a mixture of both for different people.

Friday night arriving at the campsite, myself, Ben Craig, his pseudo-girlfriend Annie and a friend of mine from the Island, James Foster, sat around in a space behind our tents. James and I, after an early-evenings’ hard drinking at the Island’s Chicago Rock were pretty merry, and I randomly started helping a couple of girls who were having difficulty in putting up their tent, and then gave up and invited them to come drink with us. As of then we accumulated people until about 4 or 5am, including some notably quality Festival Characters including ‘Jimble Girl’ and ‘Bob’.

Jimble Girl – a young punky-dressed Island girl of about 18-19, who, whilst rolling wide-end-and-twist-style cigarette-esque things for her and her mates on the far side of the social circle (literally) was telling everyone about the particular slang associated with that pastime on the Isle of Wight, unaware that she wasn’t the only one from the Island. A ‘Jimble’ was allegedly an almost finished cigarette-esque thing, and ‘Nigels’ were the last few draws of one, which automatically went to anyone called Nigel if they happened to be present when said cigarettey object passed over the Jimble Threshold. We later found her working on the Henna Tattoo stall whilst wearing stripy socks.

Bob – in late middle age, Bob was a totally pissed yet congenial bloke who insisted on attempting to light Sambucca in his own mouth after seeing someone light it in mine, which was...entertaining.

Whilst Jimble Girl was passing round one of her specials on the other side of the (admittedly large) circle, he leapt up, intercepted said special, took a long drag and handed it back. Through the rolling mushroom cloud of exhaled smoke he said;
“I shouldn’t have done that you know...I’m an-an-an officer of the law!”
We thought this was quite funny. Then he sat down next to me and a wallet fell out of his pocket. I picked it up to hand it to him, and it swung open to reveal a Thames Valley Police badge with the name ‘R. Miller’ embossed on it.

Ten minutes later on my way back to the circle from the portaloos, I passed Bob being escorted off the campsite between two of his fellow officers, one of whom was reading him his rights.

Which was nice.

It emerged that his brief inhalation was the least of three offences he had allegedly committed that night, the other two being theft.

Music Highlights

Starsailor were excellent, although the lead singer’s attempts at being all ‘rock’n’roll’ were cringeworthy...he was too much of a nice boy. Iggy Pop was good, and Paul Weller amazing. Paul Weller’s backing group seemed to consist of most of Ocean Colour Scene, which made Saturday’s headline act a bit of a bargain, to be honest!

Sunday and the John Baker Trio (possibly...this is from memory) were a highlight, and the startlingly energetic Queen-on-helium ‘The Darkness’ also rated quite highly. Counting Crows made the weekend and to be honest most of this month for me, after which Bryan Adams could have farted into the microphone for the full 90 minutes for all I cared, but in fact was surprisingly good. It’s easy to forget how many songs he’s done just by being around so bloody long. You don’t have to like them all, but he’s jumped into bed (figuratively speaking) with everyone from Mel C to Chicane, so there’s bound to be something of his that you can at least tap your foot to.

Putting money to one side, it was well worth spending two days of my holiday allowance for.

Has anyone got any spare tickets for Glastonbury?

Pitch Invasion

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This weekend is the Isle of Wight Festival.

They’ve ditched the name ‘Rock Island’, as this was too subtle; confused yokels spent the entire two days stamping around the place a bit saying, “Yep, yeah, it’s rock, right enough...Arrrr,” rather than coming along and paying to see the bands, which is closer to what the organisers had in mind.

In keeping with the spirit of keeping things on an Isle-of-Wight scale, rather than say, copying the successful summer festivals, the festival is being held on my old school cricket pitch. The seductive big-name line ups of the big festivals are being swapped for a potentially less-seductive line up and the fact that the festival is being billed as the world’s first ecologically neutral festival.
Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

To be frank, anyone that has any gripes about paying good money to see Bryan Adams, can fuck off, because I’m going to see Counting Crows, a band on my ‘To See Before I Die/Or They Split Up’ list.

Foster and myself are camping (not together) Ben and Annie might put in an appearance, and Sharon is a possible (not that most blog readers will know who these people are, but trust me, they’re good), and we’re rolling into Newport on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights for after-festival drinking and cavorting.
Newport, once old-man-pub capital of the world, where as sixth-formers we adopted one tudor-style pub and held on for dear life as the locals grumbled away, is now packed with bars. And, bizarrely, young people have appeared to fill them.
It’s been an alcoholic ‘build it and they will come’.

I couldn’t be looking forward to this weekend more.

Mount Doom in a White Transit Van

In my life’s continuing spirit of doing really rather silly things for charity, in a week or so’s time I will attempt to climb the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales inside of twenty-four hours.

That’s Ben Nevis, a brisk drive, then Scafell Pike, another gentle coast along our nation’s highways and Snowdon to round off the day.

I have been training for this by walking for about 5 or 6 hours a week for the last two weeks, and I’ll step things up a bit in the week beforehand. So far training has involved walking to and from work, which as an aside saves me £8 in bus fares a week.

Wahey!

The Appliance of Science

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The influx of spiders into my room has been halted. A triumph for the scientific method and squishing the little buggers as hard as you can.

In a mildly related incident yesterday, I came home to find it raining and my new housemate's washing on the line. I called up to ask if she wanted it bringing in, and she called down 'Oh, yes please!' (the echoey effect was probably bathroom induced), and then, in a (later) recognisably worried tone, 'Er, is it raining very hard? Cos if not don't bother'.

It was indeed raining hard so I nipped out to gather it in. I discovered she had her own colony of baby spiders, which I began to shake out of her clothes item by item.
In accordance with the Universe's Law Of Humour in such situations the final item on the line waiting to be taken indoors was a skimpy pair of knickers that were partly constructed from beads. In the place where beads were either to be least or most expected depending on whether or not you have a dirty mind.
I didn't have the guts to stand in the garden, vigorously shaking a pair of...undergarments, so I bundled them into the basket and slung them across the kichen floor.

She was sheepishly grateful.

Arachnoabcastavestitophobia

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I've just had to invent it, because it's a disease I have acquired in the last twenty four hours.

Taken literally, and put together with an online Latin dictionary (Yes, I know. I am a geek) with no personal knowledge of Latin whatsoever, it means:

Fear of spiders in clean clothes.

Not to say that I have a fear of spotting a spider in a fresh suit, but I have acquired rather a lot of spiders recently and I only yesterday discovered where they were coming from.

How, in my double-glazed, modern, chimney-less room, with no spiders' webs or nests that I could find, was I gaining about twenty or thirty baby spiders a day?

After a while it dawned on me that they were a problem (...i.e. a fresh intake...) only every so often...about every two to three days. When I realised this, I noticed that it coincided not with the washing of clothes, but of the ironing of them. The spiders, the cheeky buggers, were getting me to smuggle them into my own room. Upon inspection of the washing line in the fading daylight last night, I discovered what appeared to be the remains of four, yes FOUR spider's nests. And the washing line was literally crawling with them. If I had been in a film at that moment, there would have been a sharp sting of music as the realisation leapt across my face and I walked back into the house with a sense of foreboding.

When I got back inside, my ironing pile of fresh, clean, and garden-air-dried shirts was distributing the little bastards over the back of my couch, and I spotted a couple making a break for it across the carpet. Needless to say I waxed wroth, and left none that I could find alive. It was lucky that I realised yesterday, because nestling in the armpit of my favourite shirt was Big Mummy Spider, obviously impressed with her offspring's nifty little scheme and planning to move the whole breeding operation indoors out of the rain. Out of deference to her senior position I hefted her over the garden fence into next door's vegetable patch, because I'm a live-and-let-live kinda guy really; I felt guilty for wiping out a five-shirt-strong inbound wave of her offspring, and because the family next door would be safe from her kids' cunning tactics through having a tumbledryer.

Film music: End of action sequence. High-pitched, whiny suspense music begins.

By this time, and in accordance with the well-documented principles of psychology, I was beginning to feel a litte itchy. You know. That...disconcerting feeling when your skin tells you that something is on you when your eyes can see there's nothing there...I had a terrible night's sleep and dreamt of a Harry-Potter-esque sized spider, massive and hairy, on a beach. I have no idea why it was on a beach. Perhaps that area of psychology is less well understood.

Anyway, the MAJOR problem occured after the night of spider dreams when this morning I realised that despite the (now hopefully absent) spider infestation I was still going to have to wear one of my shirts to work...

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