Joe’s Yarns: an evening of stories

When I was little I loved stories. All kinds of stories. I loved reading them, writing them and listening to them. Hours and hours spent with my head in a book or on the early-80’s apple computer at school writing pages and pages and pages (and pages) of stories.

I remember both my Nans would tell us stories at night time if we were staying over. They’d either read from a book or make them up. The made up ones were the best. The Big Tractor and the Little Tractor was a particular favourite of mine, I loved the picture that was painted in my head of two little cartoon like pieces of farm machinery zooming around the countryside exploring and having adventures.

I still love stories. It *may* have been known for me to ask people I don’t know that well to “tell me a story”. It’s a great way to get to know people (and sometimes it’s because I’m tired and can’t be arsed to talk myself and love listening). It’s all about the chat.

And that’s how I ended up dragging BMF Nige to a storytelling night in Cheltenham last night. We’d not had a proper catch up since I got back and I’d spotted this thing on Facebook that looked interesting so we headed on down to a cafe called Smokey Joes just off the High Street in Cheltenham to see what the craic was.

Walking in I immediately wanted a milkshake (it’s a retro diner) but stuck to Wednesday Club tradition with red wine (I have totally forgotten my hangovers of the last 3 weekends of course) and walked through the back where we were greeted by Charlie, a giant white-bearded man with a hat and a booming voice who told us he was the compere for the eve.

Nige got seduced by the retro games machines and went off to play pac-man or something. I sat down and tried to figure out how to stop my phone from making a noise when I got a message, even though it was on silent. [Spoiler: it didn’t work]

The stories started. A storytelling evening is basically just someone sat on a stool with a microphone and telling a story. Funny, sad, wacky, odd, normal, your own, or someone else’s, it doesn’t matter. Tonight there was a theme “things aren’t always as they seem” but also a bit of a free for all. Kind of like an open mic night but without any singing or joke telling, the usual awkward silence followed Charlie’s opening gambit where, with the mic offered up to the room, no one dare go next. Until one person did. And then another, and another. I got up and spoke twice; a couple of stories about things from my bike trip in Chile. I think my favourite bit is when I was trying to tell my little story and my phone kept shouting out because I’d set up voice commands to unlock my phone. Yep, my phone thought I was talking to it through a microphone and despite the silent do not disturb mode, it joined in my talk with “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch what you said” in that OK Google voice. Honestly, we couldn’t get the bloody thing to shut up. Nige had to hide it on the floor under the table like a naughty dog in the end.

There were some great stories. All quite different, all told in a unique way and all engaging. Really nice to spend a couple of hours doing something pretty different. You don’t have to speak, but you can if you want.

Joe’s Yarns is held on the last Wednesday of each month at Smokey Joes. Next month is their year anniversary; I’ll definitely be going again. Give it a try if you’re Cheltenham way.




Adventure withdrawal.

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind since I got back from Chile. I got straight stuck into celebrating my return by promptly getting pissed for most of the weekends since I’ve been back. Whilst fun, it’s not sustainable and I knew the post-adventure blues would hit a little bit once the initial excitement/hangovers had worn off. They always do, I know exactly how it works for me:

  • Stage 1: Excitement at getting home and catching up with people
  • Stage 2: Over stimulation being around people after spending weeks in limited company
  • Stage 3: Become a hermit for a while and enjoy pottering around in my own company
  • Stage 4: Run lots
  • Stage 5: Rejoin civilisation and start socialising again
  • Stage 6: Plan next adventure

I’ve now made it through all the stages! Earlier today I booked flights to New Zealand to go over Easter. This wasn’t part of a plan and was a bit of a spontaneous decision and is mainly so I can go buy my friend Mike the beer I’ve owed him for about 3 years now. I met him in Hong Kong briefly and he lent me – a complete stranger – his truck when I was in New Zealand so I could do a road trip. He was in Oz so I never got to see him again to thank him properly. So when he moved back to NZ and the option of being able to have just over two weeks off work when only taking a few days holiday (thank you Easter bank holidays!) came up, it was a no brainer.

OK, so I’m pretty skint after Chile but this is what that savings pot that I shouldn’t touch is for. Sometimes you have to grab an opportunity when it comes up.

And so that, dear readers, is how I am flying off to New Zealand in just over a month for some (in Mike’s words) “insane hiking”. And a visit to Queenstown, NZ’s alcohol/party capital to celebrate my birthday. Expect lots of pictures of mountains, adventure stories and possibly drunken photos. But hopefully this time, wearing my own pants and no bar stool incidents.


Day #366 31.12.16

Ooops, not sure what is going on with the numbering. Either it was a leap year (can´t remember) or I´ve screwed them up somehow. Anyway, I can´t be arsed to figure out why, it´s not really important.

Last time I did a photo a day in 2012 I wrote a massive long last post, reviewing the year and doing some oscar-style thank yous. But that was a very different year. It was the year I got divorced and a strange year where I was single for the first time in my adult life and I was just trying to figure out who I actually was, because I´d lost my identity.

There were a lot of new things back then, and I guess that hasn´t changed, I still love trying new things. I tried to say yes to things that either interested me, scared me or sounded intriuging. That´s still pretty much the case now, but I feel more sure of myself. I´m still figuring out who I am, but that will never stop. You´re always learning and changing, it´s one of the ace things about being a human. We learn and grow and change constantly, even if we don´t want to.

This year has been an absolute blast though, I´ve done some brilliant things, met some brilliant people and forged deeper friendships with people I haven´t known for that long. I have absolutely adored living in Cheltenham, and I couldn´t think of a better place to live right now. I´ve been here two years now and still feel like I´m only just scratching the surface. So much more to look forward to. It´s not all been great, but in the law of averages no whole year can be. But, I still wake up every day so grateful for my lot and so pleased with where I am now, compared to back in 2011.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of my 2016. You´ve all made it what it was, and I wouldn´t be half the person I am if you all weren´t around me. No (wo)man is an island, so they say.

Here´s to a happy, healthy, active and outdoors 2017!



Day #365 30.12.16

Well! No luggage so we assume it will come tomorrow and so will stay another night in Puerto Montt, and decided to make the most of today by having a little day trip to Isla Tenglo, a little island just off the city accessible by boat. We wandered pretty much all round the island in the glorious sun…although as I don´t have any toiletries I didn´t put any sun cream on…..ouch ouch ouch, the sun here is fierce, and I am stupid.


Day #364 29.12.16

The bikes have arrived! It wasn´t a scam, they do actually exist! But! No bike repair kit (as promised) and one flat tyre. So, Enrique came back with the kit, changed the tyre and we’re pretty much good to go (well, when my luggage turns up and after we load up with food).

In the meanwhile, the bikes reside in the hotel kitchen…


Day #363 28.12.16

After hours and hours of travelling on buses, airports, planes, I sit in Santiago airport waiting for my last flight (flight number 3) to Puerto Montt. I know that my luggage isn´t with me, but I´ve been told it will turn up tomorrow. I am hot, sticky, tired and ready for a shower. Hopefully the hotel will have some toiletries.


Day #362 27.12.16

Flight day! Time to jet off to Chile for a little cycling adventure! This disappearing off to the Southern hemisphere after Christmas to escape January seems to be starting a tradition. I started 2016 in South Africa in the sun climbing a mountain, and I´m leaving 2016 hopefully also in the sun, in South America. I´m just looking forward to being outside for most of the day, instead of having to hide away inside with the heating on.



Day #361 26.12.16

Spent this afternoon getting all my stuff ready for Chile, as well as having a bit of a dance around my flat and pottering around. Decided to get some fresh air and exercise by having a walk up Leckhampton Hill to catch the sunset. Managed to just get it, and had the top of the hill to myself to watch the oranges and yellows turn to pinks and blues and spot the trails from the planes in the sky.

After a hectic month (December always is) it was nice to get a bit of solitude and peace up high. Always makes me feel a bit calmer and chilled out.


Day #360 25.12.16

Friends Christmas was hosted at Marsha and Rich’s place in Bristol today. After the events of the last two days I have to admit I was slightly jaded so it was a relatively alcohol-free day for me, but to be fair, Christmas Day usually is.

What a lovely, chilled out day we had. Apart from the afternoon walk we had out to the Clifton suspension bridge we spent the day just eating (we pretty much grazed constantly) and playing games. I’ve had Articulate for years but every time I play it the laughs always come from either a) the weird descriptions people come up with, b) the lack of understanding between partners “do you not know me AT ALL”, c) the hand gestures “just pointing and moving your hand does NOT HELP or d) the helpful hints everyone says after the round “you should have said ‘XYZ’, I would have got it then”.

Thank you so much to Marsha and Rich for hosting me and Sam in your boooootiful new flat, so lovely to spend the day with all you guys.

Day #359 24.12.16

Not going to lie, going to BMF was a bit of a struggle this morning. I was still drunk. Then Bev had the wine out by 9.15am. Hair of the dog, she said. It will help, she said. Still trying to work out whether I agree with her or not.

Drunk or not, it was a fun session which did involve some running around and exercise-type stuff but mainly for me it also just involved a lot of laughing. We all love Mark’s sessions. He somehow manages to make them so much fun but hard but yet ones where we all push ourselves, rather than being pushed my someone else per se.

An interesting end to the session involved me finding a penguin finger puppet which must now accompany me to Chile, Frank Skinner being accosted for a photo with us, me getting awarded the ‘Biggest Bluffer’ award (hmmm…) and then mulled wine and stories of Mark and Sarah’s interesting parenting techniques.

Bev, Dave and I then decided it would be a MOST EXCELLENT idea to go for cocktails afterwards.

At 9pm that night it dawned on me that that was probably NOT a most excellent idea when I finally got home and realised I’d just topped up from yesterday and probably would only just be prolonging the hangover…..

Ah, it’s Christmas innit? Much fun and laughs were had.