Kilimanjaro: Beyond My Comfort Zone – Part 1

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That’s me at my summit. Shira Camp 1. Kilimanjaro. Tanzania. That’s in Africa, a place I’d never planned to visit, not through any particular fear but because I was comfortable within my little bubble. I had my work, my writing, dogs, popping to the shops, mooching around Cambridge. Nice and simple and safe.

Like Sheldon Lee Cooper once said, “It’s called the Comfort Zone for a reason.”

I admit now that my life was kinda boring.

Albeit safe and predictable.

But yeah, soooo boring!

Returning to the familiar is a good thing – a chance to recharge and refresh with a view to facing the next chapter of life. Right now the familiar is a constant reminder that there’s more stuff for me to see out there in the big wide world. Talk about stuff. I knew there was a lot because the world is pretty big, but I never thought there was that much of it. Believe me, there’s stuff everywhere! And I now want to see it all.

I’m glad I went to Africa. If for nothing else it has served as a catalyst for a much-needed lifestyle change. It has opened my eyes to so many possibilities I never gave much thought to before. I am feeling a sense of loss with post-expedition blues, where adrenaline and excitement must give way to a slower more calculable pace. Which sucks because I want the adventure to continue.

But hey, let’s not dwell on that for now!

I have a story to tell.

Rather than throw every last word and photo at you in a seemingly endless and exhausting post (as is my usual style) I’ve decided to chop my adventure into a few parts.

I’m thinking: Africa Alive, Moshi Time and Safari.

All photos are large so you open them up big style. The majority were taken with my Galaxy S7.

Let’s roll back a little…

Shiny & New!

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Left to right: Vicki, Julie, Jo, Pete, myself, Frankie, Valerie, David, Joel, Mike, Hannah, Chris and Hayley.

On 18th Jan 2017 we assembled at Norwich Airport at the ridiculous hour of 4.30am. Look how eager and fresh and tidy were all are!

I felt anxious. I hadn’t flown for over 20 years and the furthest I’d driven was 6 hours to Brecon Beacons in Wales last October. I was feeling a little out of my depth and had to remind myself I was actually there, that it was really happening.

Norwich Airport is dinky, but it’s clean and modern. Quick tip, when paying the £10 Airport Development Fee (aka Leaving The Country Tax) don’t waste an extra £3 on the Express Super Speedy security bit. There are 2 lines that go through security and the Express one meets with the normal one around the corner and the queues merge anyway!

Yeah, some of us were caught in the noob trap.

First flight to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was about 50 minutes on a tiny Fokker 70. I remember those type from when I was a kid. I was looking forward to the big plane.

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After a 2 hour wait we boarded a Boeing 777 200. A big chunky plane with seats everywhere!

Flight Time

Our expedition leader, Jo Bradshaw, missed the flight due to too much fog in London and had to meet us the following day. I watched the Ghostbusters remake, it was okay.

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The food had improved somewhat in 20 years, so it was at least better than edible. Kinda.

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KLM Airlines staff were polite and cheery.

I know this is all a bit photo heavy, a little like looking through a friend’s collection of holiday pics and wondering how long you’ll need to wear your “I’m sooooo interested” or “How amazing!” face for. But still, I managed to snap a cool photo of Austria through the window.

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Bag Nightmare!

Seven of us lost our duffel bags between Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro Int. It was a huge pain the arse and something we didn’t need after a long flight. And even though I was tired and cranky I was intensely excited at being in a different country. The air was insanely hot and dry when we got off the plane and walked to the arrivals terminal, which was awesome!

There was a long queue for immigration where we got our visas – form filling, photos and fingerprints taken. We’re British. We know how to queue.

We finally met our local contact, Mussa, who was very patient whilst we filled in lost bag forms.

It wasn’t that much of a nightmare. You’ve got to be pragmatic these days and let things go with a “Meh.”

Sal Salinero Hotel

I find arriving at places at night a strange event as darkness masks the true nature of your new surroundings. I get two impressions, one in the dark, and in the dawn of the new day. I found myself comparing the two and reconciling the differences.

The hotel was a tropical island amid a sea of red dust and dirt.

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It was lush and green, calm and relaxing. I couldn’t fault the level of customer service provided by the hotel staff – well dressed, helpful and always ready with a polite karibu.

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The wi-fi was solid. I’m with EE and bought a few roaming data packages – 100MB for £40 that lasted 7 days.

My first day wasn’t great as I had a bad stomach upset and was off my food. Not sure if that was due to a virus, nerves or the heat. Either way I didn’t enjoy the breakfast, or lunch at a restaurant in Moshi, or the evening meal for that matter.

The food at Kaka’s was amazing! If you’re in Moshi I suggest a visit as it’s truly taste-tastic!

On our first visit I could barely hold down a mango smoothie, as I was so worried I’d puke up anything heavier.

But the second visit – see below! The chicken was spicy, like tandoori style, but earthy and rich.

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I was somewhat preoccupied with worrying, a lot – about my stomach cramps, not eating enough to maintain energy levels, making sure I managed my diet and taking diabetic meds at the right time, whether I was drinking enough to avoid getting dehydrated.

I couldn’t settle and join in with the group as much as I wanted. And I so wanted to relax and go with the banter and be wrapped up in the excitement of the climb to come.

It was like I was surfing the little waves at the beach, instead of launching myself further out and joining the team.

I felt like a dick at the time. I wanted to tell everyone “Hey, I’m not like this normally. I’m just a twat right now, please excuse my non-smiling face and total lack of amusement. Yeah, I hate me too. Sorry.”

The night before Day 1 of the climb I laid in bed hoping that come morning I’d be bright and alert with zero stomach pains and as excited as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon to be there. It was like a dozen Christmas’s come at once. That feeling didn’t vanish, but it was marred by my stomach issue and lack of appetite.

Londorosi Gate

Early the next morning we climbed into 2 mini buses that took us and our gear through the amazing Tanzanian country, just under 4 hours if I remember correctly, to Londorosi Gate which is at 2,250 metres above sea level.

There we signed the visitor park book, ate lunch, took some photos and watched the porters sign in and prep for the expedition.

The place was a hive of activity with groups coming and going, porters chatting, people playing pool. Yup, there was a pool table in the waiting hut.

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Okay, the lunch.

Here’s the thing.

It was weird. It came in a small pizza box. I had a carton of mango juice which was sweet and delicious. There was a tiny cremated sparrow leg, with the same taste and consistency as a rubber bouncy ball. A strange cake thing that tasted like the box itself. And a bunch of carrot and cucumber sticks.

So, yeah, weird.

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I’m on the right if you couldn’t guess.

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Jumping Off Point.

Back on the buses for another 40 minutes or so until we reached our setting out point, Morum Picnic site, 3,407 metres above sea level.

A quick info dump about altitude levels. Click to make big.

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Just to put things into perspective.

It’s pretty high up.

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The trip between gate and picnic site was fine. Pretty even. Lush forest. Extremely bumpy road. We passed a bus that had tipped over and was surrounded by locals trying to determine how to get it right side up.

The unexpected thing about altitude, that I hadn’t considered, was how you can feel okay whilst sat in a bus, but the second you hop out and begin mucking about with your backpack and trying to walk and talk…aaaaaaand BOOM!

Where’s all the air gone?

It was a strange sensation as if an invisible force was trying to lift me out of my body. I watched a few of my more eager and fitter team-mates hurry away to explore the local area – rocks, a small hill and some huts. I suspect I wasn’t the only one who was shocked by the sudden impact of high altitude.

I sat on a rock and took deep breaths.

I can’t recall if it was at this point, or the team brief the night before, where Jo told us not to fight out bodies. Don’t do any weird breathing exercises, or walking and talking too fast. We had to allow our bodies to do what they needed to do in order to cope at high altitude. Our bodies are more intelligent than we think.

I took that in. Looking back it sure does make a lot of sense. And not just at altitude either.

It was at that point I decided to check my blood sugar levels.

I wasn’t happy. Sat on a rock with a stomach filled with concrete jelly. I wanted it to settle or get the fuck out of my ass in a hurry. I needed one of those horrible yet purifying moments:

“Urrgggghhhhh!!!!”

Plop. Plop. Plop. Machine gun fart. Splatter. Sizzle. Squirt.

This kind of event is usually accompanied with a sudden sweat soaked face, trembling hands, feeling light-headed. But oh so relieved the devil has been purged, right out the ass and back into hell!

You’ve been there before, right?

It’s a situation normal people try to avoid.

Not me. Not then. I wanted rid of the evil.

Yeah, well that didn’t happen for me.

My stomach was in no mood to grant requests. Whatever sick bastard had taken residence inside me wasn’t leaving any time soon.

Checking my blood level I was shocked and angry that my gadget gave a reading of 28. I hadn’t been that high in nearly a year. I’d taken the right meds at the right time. Sure I hadn’t eaten a lot, but that should mine they’d be low, not high.

We began our trek to Shira Camp 1, our first camp. I’d taken pain killers and was drinking water.

As time passed I slowed down. I felt as if the concrete in my stomach was trying to weigh me down. With everyfoot step it ached and stabbed me. I lost track of time for a while and concentrated on my walking and watching the feet of the person in front.

Ralphing.

Julie, a friend from work who had also signed up for the crazy adventure, slowed down from the main group to walk with me. For which I was grateful. She urged me to tell Jo how I was feeling. I didn’t want to. I wanted to make it to camp, take a massive dump and come out of the crapper tent feeling 2 stone lighter and pain-free

It was the only logical thing to do to stay safe.

I explained my symptoms to Jo, who listened and asked questions. She said to keep her updated if anything changed and we walked on. Seldom in my life have I experienced my energy levels drop so fast. Every part of my body was heavy and weak, tired and lethargic.

I stumbled to a stop at one point.

Jo asked if I was okay. I was about to respond when she said: “You’re not okay, are you?”

I made it to a rock. I have no idea how. My tank was empty. Not enough energy left to talk.

The second I sat everything came up. A hot acidic roar of bile launched itself out of my mouth. I heaved and dumped it on the dusty ground.

It’s funny how you notice things at strange times. In those few seconds, as thick sludgy drool hung from my mouth, I noticed how dark the ground was, and just how fine the dirt was too. It wasn’t dirt but grey powder. Or flour. That was it. A magic chef had scattered an endless supply of grey flour all over the Shira Plateau.

I felt Jo’s hand on my back. Soothing words.

I felt more than a little foolish. A grown man ralphing on a mountain.

I hate puking. I’ve been known to spend hours very still on the bed to avoid blowing chunks. I’d rather a family of spiders crawled all over my face.

Julie later described how she’d rarely seen anyone’s face so white so fast.

And that evil bastard in my belly just laughed and gauged his little red talons into me.

Canyons!

We moved on, with much encouragement from Jo, Derek (one of the guides, and an excellent human being) and Julie. I hated myself. I’m talking deep dark angry loathing. I wanted to snap my fingers and be transformed. Free from pain and happy!

I hated how I wasn’t enjoying a single thing. We trekked alongside these amazing canyons, filled with boulders, streams and so much stuff to look at. All I could concentrate on were the set of boots in front, my breathing, sipping water, making my walking poles work properly.

Side note: I know the 360 Expeditions kit list includes walking poles, and lots of trekking websites praise them, but looking back they were more a hindrance than a help for the most part. Maybe later when the terrain became difficult they’d be useful, but they were in the way there.

If I’d been normal I’d have taken photos and loved every second of the stunning surroundings. No. I was pissed off. I wasn’t sulking. I simply wasn’t well enough to take anything in and enjoy it.

Maybe it was hours later when we arrived in camp. It was dusk. The team were in the mess tent. I wanted to make a bold entrance and say “Hey! Hey! Better later than never! How’s everyone enjoying day one?”

I wanted to be that person.

Jo spoke to me outside my tent. She had a tiny pill that would either prompt me to puke the rest up or ease my stomach. Kill or cure basically.

Emotional Bombardment.

I collapsed in my tent, did a kind of half shuffle on my matt, and remained that way. I’d taken note of the toilet tents – like a port-a-potty but in a tent. I want to purge myself. But all I could do was lie there, letting my body take deep breaths, unable to move my leaden limbs and feeling consumed by a plethora of emotions I never want in my head and heart again.

Let’s see – I was angry with myself. I felt humiliated for being so slow and weak. I felt like I’d let so many people down, the team, people at home – friends, family, people who’d donated to the charity. I felt guilty for not doing better when I knew I should. I was anxious about whether something was really wrong with me. I worried about so many things my head hurt.

I’d dreamt about the trek for months and the reality was quite different.

Jo’s tiny wonder pill did indeed help, for about 20 minutes. I even managed to get to the loo.

I did a wee. Just a fucking wee.

And that was dark and cloudy. Ew. Fucking ewwwwwww!

Where was the joyous big dump I deserved?

Julie came and checked on me. I smiled and tried to be a grown up. I was okay. I just needed to rest, get some sleep and things will be cool in the morning. I didn’t eat because I was certain I’d puke again, and that was not happening!

My spirits were lifted when a few of the team stuck their head in the tent and asked if I was okay. I was told they’d cheered when I arrived in camp. That still makes me smile.

I managed to get my kit sorted, and crawled into my sleeping bag. I shivered for a while before putting thermals on. I found a comfortable position and tried to get some sleep.

People snored.

Julie headed out to the toilet in the night.

I was jealous of her.

And I was worried. I’d drunk 3 litres of water and squirted a feeble shot glass worth of cloudy piss.

Where had all my wee-wee gone?

Day Two.

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That’s not the best photo of me. At about 6 or 7 am I was an aching, unhappy, weary dick head. Still, that’s the sun rising above Mount Kibo. Cool huh?

After another disappointing wee I spoke to Jo and discussed my symptoms again. I was more than worried if I continued and got worse, well, I didn’t want to consider that. I hadn’t acclimatised well enough even though I’d drunk some during the night I was dehydrated and that’s not good. And my stomach wanted to kill me.

I forced myself not to cry when Jo said I’d reached my summit.

My expedition was over.

Even now it hurts to recall that moment. I could have dropped into my tent, placed my head in my hands and wept. I had failed my team, my friends, family and myself. How do I tell everyone and avoid tears?

In the mess tent I actually loved the odd pizza slices of scrambled egg, although the chocolate maize porridge was something of an acquired taste. The team asked how I was.

Okay. Thanks.

That was all I could muster.

And I’m sorry. I wanted to say more. I wanted to join their laughter and banter. I wanted to keep on going.

I didn’t want to go home.

Jo spoke to the team about the trek ahead that day and then asked me if she could tell them.

I kept my eyes on the table.

I couldn’t speak. I just nodded.

Jo said that after struggling the day before and not having improved in the night, I wouldn’t be continuing. “Sadly, Dave has reached his summit.”

I blinked and forced a smile. Never have I felt so small, lonely, weak and pathetic in my entire life. I’d let them all down. I hated myself.

I was given congratulations for getting so far, that it was still an amazing achievement.

I was grateful for the support.

If you were there with me, then thank you, sincerely, your kind words helped me get through the rest of the day.

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I watched as the team gathered together, ready to break camp and head for Shira Camp 2.

Jo explained that we’d have to trek a few hours to the 4×4 track, where I’d be picked up by a park ranger, driven to Moshi and hospital, at least for a checkup, maybe a drip if I was still dehydrated.

Julie wore a sad smile on her face.

She asked if I wanted her to come with me. The fact that was ready to give up her own trek and summit attempt was enough to choke me to silence.

I couldn’t speak, only shake my head. I wasn’t going to cry. I managed to say no. She asked again and I refused. I couldn’t have that on my conscience.

It’s at times like those when I’m reminded of what true friendship means.

I’m not talking about being mates, bit of banter down the pub, or hanging out at work.

True Friendship.

True friendship goes beyond simple actions and words. It is about making a true connection with another human being. Friendship is something I hold in the highest regard. To me it is more precious than gold or diamonds.

Rarely have I experienced such a deep, heart-felt, soul touching moments of friendship.

We hugged.

I forced myself not to cry, although my voice did crack. I told her to keep going and reach that summit.

I shook hands with the team, told them good luck, and received best wishes.

We parted company along the trail between Shira Camps 1 and 2. I walked with Jo, and outstanding guides Patrick and Suley. I can’t praise these guys enough, or the porters. We’ll come to them in a later post.

My own trek was spent in quiet contemplation until we reached the 4×4 track.

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I won’t deny that day was one of the worst in my life.

I had failed, big time, and it hurt in so many ways.

At the time I had no idea that my real adventure was about to begin.

And that, dear blog reader, is a story for another time.

The Dreamers of Dreams

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I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of anyone sharing random memes because they’re often thrust online with little thought as to why they want to share that message, other than jumping on a social media junkie trend train to show how clued up/smart/linked in/connected/down with the shizzle they are. Choo fucking choo.

Today I’m not one of those vacuous zombies.

I’m going to share something personal with you, dear blog reader. Yeah, like I’ve never done that before!

This is somewhat different because it relates directly to a big (perhaps the main) reason why I love to write.

Yesterday was Roald Dahl’s 100th Birthday. I missed it. Soz. Hey, I don’t keep records of dead writers in my diary for the chance I might spot a milestone like the big one oh oh and throw out some insincere messages like other sheeple.

Besides, the guy’s dead.

Alive, his stories very much are.

The Giant Peach

I won’t bore you with a gigantic post today.

I was tempted to keep this short and sweet. But no. I’ve got my happy on today so ner ner na ner ner.

Just read it and be all warm and fuzzy and inspired and shit.

When I was about 7 or 8 I read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. I read a load more after that too, but it was that first book that grabbed my attention. Big time.

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This was back in the olden days before movies and cover redesigns were en vogue to capture the attention of children who’ve just seen the movie and now want to relive the story, albeit without the 3D visuals, rumbling surround sound, or their giggling mates. And minus munching popcorn in the dark or sucking sugary death from a novelty themed toy Coca Cola cup.

I guess you could curl up all quiet and comfy in bed with the book version, night-light, a bag of Butterkist and your cinema trophy filled with Robinsons.

Not quite the same, is it?

Nope.

Sigh.

THAT’S WAY BETTER!!

Movies are cool and have their place, but I like love books!

And popcorn.

Munchkin Land.

I read the adventures of James and his pals when I was very young. Everything about it screamed at me in a way I’d not experienced before, and if I’m honest not since either.

It was like that scene in Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door onto a world drenched in colour.

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Either she’d never seen colour before, or the director wanted the audience to be wowed by the transition.Doesn’t matter which. We share Dorothy’s sense of seeing the world the right way or like lifting a dark and grubby veil so she could stare in wonder at how much colour and magic the world has in it.

Doesn’t matter which. We share Dorothy’s sense of seeing the world the right way or like lifting a dark and grubby veil to take in the magic and wonder of a colour soaked world.

James and the Giant Peach had that effect on me.

I lived inside that book.

I was there right next to James at every twist, every turn, every shocking revelation.

It was as if that book had been written to slot perfectly into my personality and how I saw the world. I got the humour, the quirky characters, the sudden changes in life that without warning can knock you off one path and onto another.

Roald Dahl had slipped into a hidden layer behind my life to direct it for a moment to give me a Dorothy/Oz moment when I opened that book.

I didn’t only see words on the pages. My imagination lifted them into the world and like Dorothy’s door, the pages of that book spewed out characters, scenes, emotional highs and lows.

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Quick side-note on the above picture. Fabulous isn’t it? It’s by an artist Kelly Cambell Berry. Find her on Etsy.

A lot of my primary school friends (even some in high school and beyond) declared they never read books. I found that strange like there was something wrong with them. I didn’t understand how anyone could not read a book. To some degree, I still don’t.

Weirdo’s right?

If not for that one moment…

I believe if that book and I hadn’t come together at the right time, the right place, the right mood, setting and so on, then I would have spent a life reaching for an itch I couldn’t scratch. Maybe I would have written a little, but somehow I suspect without the same level of passion.

On the other hand, if you believe in fate you could argue I would still have written and enjoyed doing so because it’s in my heart.

That is, if you believe in fate.

Which I don’t.

But still, that book had a lot to do with my one true passion:

Dog Water Skiing Photography!

JAN 20th 2012.........pics of .. with this cold spell the 54th annual Toronto International Boat Show is wrapping up this weekend but not before saving the best for last..People can get to laugh and wonder about Duma,the incredible waterskiing and boat driving dog...Duma a famous water loving Jack Russell terrier is back to thrill the audiences with his skills on the lake...zdumas promoter Cliff Bode put him through his practise today...Duma performs all weekend....(COLIN MCCONNELL STAR) ..

Hehe.

I found this photo months ago and have been dying to use it. How cool is that dog!

Dave, the Dreamers of Dreams? Blog title?

Ah yes. Facebook told me yesterday that Roald Dahl would have been 100 years ancient. I checked out some quirky quotes and memes and junk. And I found one quote snagged on a memory strand.

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That one stood out and it took a while to figure out where I’d heard it before.

Gene. You will always be the best Willy Wonka.

When I Googled the quote I was surprised to learn it wasn’t a Willy Wonka/Roald Dahl line but from Arthur O’Shaughnessy, a British poet who in 1874 wrote a poem called Ode, made famous by its first line: “We are the music makers.”

I’d never read the poem before and found it quite beautiful.

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties,
we build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story,
we fashion an empire’s glory.
One man, with a dream, at pleasure
shall go forth and conquer a crown.
And three, with a new song’s measure
can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying,
in the buried past of the Earth,
built Nineveh with our sighing
and Babel itself with our mirth.
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
to the old of the New World’s worth.
For each age is a dream that is dying,
or one that is coming to birth.

–  Ode, Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Last night a read and reread it. I don’t understand much about poetry other than a fleeting appreciation of how words can have an interesting impact on my senses and mood. I was then surprised to learn that despite my inability to be any kind of poem aficionado I did indeed have a favourites list.

A top 3 actually, so not much of a list.

  1. Desiderata
  2. Jabberwocky
  3. Ode

Well it’s a start.

Compared to my previous damning post about having too much choice, I’d say this has been an inspired, positive (mildy hypocritical) and uplifting experience. A short stroll through a suburb of Memory City and then a hop over to the outskirts to enjoy the sights along the lush meandering riverbanks of discovery and learning.

And finally…

If you happen to be artistic and the voices of inspiration whisper to you, or perhaps you are artistically challenged and hear nothing but silence or the rushing of wind passing between your ears, then take note of the meme below.

If you’re weird – congratulations. Be bold. Seek and share your magic.

If you’re unweird – I’d like to empathise with you, sincerely, but my imagination doesn’t enjoy not being able to imagine a life where I can’t imagine.

Just remember, without those “weird people” the world would be considerably less magical.

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We Have Too Much Choice!

 

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If you’re not in the mood to read a seriously pissed off rant, dear blog reader, and are looking to read something sedate and pedestrian, then you’re shit out of luck because I’m here to rant about how we are given way too much choice in life.

Today I’ll be pitching the polite humble Brit overboard and adopting a brash tell-it-like-it-is, don’t get in my fucking way Yankie approach. Just for shits and gigs.

There’s no preamble here. We’re skipping the starter and going straight for the meat and potatoes.

That being said, read and enjoy or get the fuck off my blog.

See that picture up there?

All those little vaguely white squares? Except none of them are proper white. They’re all kinda white, but not quite white, but want to be white, but also want to be “different” in their approach to what they think white means to them.

During the creation of Paint Company Ltd’s new Colours 2016 Collection, a journo from a posh interior design magazine asked an insanely clever, artistic and not overpaid in the slightest Colour Imagineer a simple question:

“Please share with the ordinary and very naive consumer how you interpret the word ‘white’ and how you’re so adept at dreaming up such new and amazing twists on what is essentially the absence of colour. Not dissimilar to black in that respect. Be as creative as you like so no one will understand.”

Those squares, and more importantly the brilliant creative minds at Dulux, are an interpretation of white and how they might appeal to like-minded people looking for something “different” to give their home a “different” look.

And when I say different I mean the same as everyone else’s home because white is fucking white!

When viewed in context with furniture, wall & floor coverings and so on any normal person will take 0.5 seconds to refer to their mental model of the world, what colour the white on the walls closely matches, and then slot that colour in a single box: white.

Yep. The colour that took you hours/days/weeks/months (Jesus, I hope that’s not the case with anyone) to narrow down and select as “the” colour to represent who you are, what your room means to you, how it represents your life’s hopes/aspirations/history/mood, how it reflects your unique and interesting personality, and just as equally what you hope it means to guests and how it will surely enrich their lives because you’ve chosen it so well.

It’s just white, Dave, calm down.

That’s not the point. Here are some more vaguely white, but somewhat creamy colours.

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Okay, there’s some variation here, but still, that’s just too much choice!

If I asked you to choose one for say, I don’t know, your living room, how long would it take you to narrow that lot down to 1? If it’s less than an hour I’d be impressed.

If you’re one of those people who agonizes over which particular shade of white is the correct one for any given room or wall then you have my heartfelt and sincerest pity.

There are vast ranges of paint. Take a look at some whites I found on the line. It’s mind-blowing.

There are Autumn Whites, Summer Whites, Winter Whites, Winter Cream White, Spring Whites, Violet Whites, Ocean White, Pastel White, Warm Whites, Cool Whites, Natural Whites, Hint of Whites, Crisp Whites, Muted Whites, Cloud White, All Wight (snigger), Mmillennium Falcon White, Stormtrooper White, Wedding Dress White, Angel White, Exotic White (seriously, WTF is that?) White With A Hint Of White Whites, Dusky Whites, Shades of White, Neutral White, Dazzling White, Urban White, Pure White, Pure Brilliant White, Shimmering White, Whiter Than White, Moody White, Serene White, Country White, Cotton White, Crushed Cotton White (yeah, cos that’s sooo different) White Mist, Vintage White (which in my book means stained old yellow kinda manky lookin) Chalky White, Chiffon White, Steel White, Jasmine White, Peal White, Dentist Bright White, Barry White.

That last one is okay.

Too. Much. Choice.

You think I’m exaggerating?

colours3

That little lot are what Dulux call Soft Warm Neutrals.

An entirely different set of colours than the previous set of Creams.

They’re all different colours!

Holy fucking shit! This is proof enough that the human race has got its priorities all fucked up and back to front.

Let me paint a picture for you.

The other day I happen to listen in on a conversation between two people in a DIY shop as they discuss which paint to use in their living room. This is the general gist of how it went down.

Man: We should go for bold colours. Make a statement. Go for the wow factor. Like a big blue.

Woman: [Giving the man a withering glance] Blue is cold.

Man: [Pointing to the paint chart] No it’s not. This one says Summer Medley 6. Summer isn’t cold.

Woman: We’re getting a warm colour. Something light and warm and inviting.

Man: Beige then.

Woman: Beige is so 1990’s. What do you think about Vintage Chandelier?

Man: Kinda white isn’t it?

Woman: Not pacifically white. More creamy.

Man: It’s in the white section.

Woman: It’s not supposed to be white white. Just more than white.

Man: More than white? What’s that supposed to mean?

Woman: [Sighs] How about White Mist? That would go in the hall.

Man: [Hands on hips] We’re painting the hall now?

Woman: You could if I went with White Mist. [She points to another white] And maybe Moon Shimmer on the back wall, to emphasise the big mirror your gran gave you.

Man: [Scratching his head] Moon Shimmer?

Woman: Or maybe Frosted Dawn.

Man: Both white. We should just get the one with Brilliant White on it.

Woman: Don’t be thick. We spent ages waiting for the work to get done and we’re not just slapping white everywhere.

Man: We’re not?

Woman: No. That room needs character. We got to choose something that really reflects the mood we’re creating. Colours are important. You didn’t do art at school. I did. I remember everything Mr Penner teached us. We got to create a ambience.

Man: [Losing interest. Tone of voice now flat] We do? Fine.

Women: Maybe if we took some tester pots. Moon Shimmer. Frosted Dawn. Mineral Haze. White Cotton and that Boutique Cream would go good in the downstairs loo.

Man: I did the loo a few months back.

Woman: Don’t you want our home to look proper nice?

Man: Yes but-

Woman: Then we got to do this right. People are going to see it. I’m not having them talking about us. We can’t just chuck any old colour on the walls.

Man: White isn’t a colour.

Woman: [Staring hard at him] What did I say about my teacher?

Man: [Huge sigh] I’m going to look at the drills.

I don’t recall the exact name she used for her teacher, but it stuck in my mind that she said “teached” and “pacifically” which tells you a lot about how she fits in with the world.

The point is that they, like all of us, have too much choice in life.

And we don’t need it.

Paint is just an easy example.

The reason for the mind-boggling number of paint choices isn’t because Dulux, Crown or Valspar want to enrich our lives. Ha. They don’t care about your life and whether your feature wall colour makes you happy.

They create these colours to make money.

Nothing wrong with that.

Take Heinz Baked Beans

Heinz-beans

For years there was one type. Beans. Nice. Tasty. Classic.

If I wanted a twist I’d drop some grated cheese on, or a splash of Worcestershire Sauce.

In recent times there has been an explosion in different types of beans.

Now we have this collection:

Heinz

Did anyone ask for them?

Or these?

moreHeinz

Because it seems the public were desperate for 10 different types of baked bean.

And that’s not getting into the beans with sausages/meatballs/piri piri/Mexican/big breakfast combinations.

50% Less Sugar Beans I do approve of. Anything to stave off the diabetes plague a little longer gets a tick in my book.

Why We Don’t Need Choice.

If the human race spent less time dreaming up ways to screw each other out of a few extra pennies by giving us an ever-expanding horizon of shit we didn’t ask for, want or need, then maybe, just maybe we’d make progress in solving some of the bigger issues facing our planet.

Imagine a world where the creative energies currently spent naming and producing a million variations of white were aimed at the really big problems.

Sure, there’s freedom of choice to create choices for others, but as a race can’t we harness that energy for something better?

What concerns me is a possible future where mankind has been so consumed by profit that we’ve squandered the opportunity to achieve so much more. All that brain power could be used to cure for all manner of biological problems, or tackle food/water/energy shortages, or bring an end to poverty.

It sickens me to hear anyone argue over what type of white to use on their walls when people on the same planet are dying through lack of basic necessities like food and clean water.

I’m angered at the thought of how much natural resources are consumed by Heinz (as an example) to bring a new product to the market, but people are dying because they don’t have clean water. How can we as a race ever hope to have a healthy future where we live in balance with our planet when we’re obsessed with pathetic trivialities like Chiffon White versus Cotton White?

I’m amazed we’ve got this far at all.

The amount of waste we produce as a species is simply staggering. Have you ever stopped to question where your food really comes from? Where the packaging comes from? It hurts my head to calculate the sheer effort that goes into harvesting raw materials, packaging, transport, oil, water and so on, all so we can have a snack.

I was in a KFC a week ago. Had a tasty chicken Rio burger, fries & drink. Midway through my meal I paused to wonder how many chickens are slaughtered daily, even hourly, just to support the sales in that one KFC outlet. How much oil and chemicals are used to produce the feed rammed down the gullets of the chickens, or even used to produce potatoes for the fries?

200 chickens per day for that one outlet? 500?

A quick internet search suggests around 1 billion chickens are killed every year for KFC.

And think of how many trees are chopped for the paper to make burger wrappers. It doesn’t all come from recycling. Most packaging will have something on it like “Made From 42% Recycled Materials”.

And then think about where the waste goes after. Recycling isn’t a solution, not even for the minute amount of garbage we genuinely do reuse. It takes energy to recycle. It’s a stop-gap measure at best.

I’m a hypocrit, just so you know. Right now I’m tucking into a bag of Cheese & Onion crisps. Can’t recycle that packaging.

Fuck the human race. I’m disgusted to be a part of it.

We don’t deserve this planet.