Lent 2015

What do paper clips, zebra crossings and French swear words all have in common?

I have, in previous years, given them up for Lent.

Yes Lent is that sacrificial period that I take slightly more seriously than Ramadan (seriously – how do you go without drinking water during the day??).

And I continue in such reverent vain this year as I am giving up pruning my eyebrows.

No plucking, no shaving, no form of eyebrow management is allowed for 40 days.

You may jest but I am of the age where a fair proportion of my eyebrow hairs grow in different directions and seemingly want a mullet of their own, or perhaps they are trying to scare the birds away.

My eyebrows need management.  I seriously do not understand why many older guys, especially politicians, allow these great pampas bushes to grow above their eyes – seriously guys, sort them out.  They are nearly as ridiculous as women who paint their eyebrows on.

The Detox Is Back

As I write this I have completed 10 days so far.  Consecutive days – unlike one of my colleagues who attempted a January detox, that started on 4th and finished on 25th and only actually managed 6 individual days.  I shall be doing a full 31 days – with the last day being Thursday 5th March.

No alcohol.  No caffeine.  No bleach-snorting, no elephant tranquilizer, no e-by-bum, no vodka eye-shots.  Nothing.  Anything that could be seen as an intoxicant is out.  Fun is banned.

I first heard of detoxes through a hero of mine, Sven Vath.  I was quite astounded many years ago, probably 15 years ago, when I read that he took a month out to cleanse his body and his soul.  But closer to home, a good friend of mine, Gareth, influenced me by his annual January detoxes.  Again, I initially thought it was bizarre, the idea of going without drinking for a month, but I came around to the idea last year.

Last year I needed a detox.  My body was tired from all the partying – I was partying by habit and physically and mentally fatigued.  It gave me a new look on life and helped me to reprioritise.  More importantly, I felt somewhat repaired afterwards.

This year I don’t need a detox.  But I want a detox.  Time out from drinking and partying – time to spend on other projects of mine, and studying.  Pressing the reset button to get myself off caffeine.  And to save money so I can invest in something that I really want.  And hopefully lose some frigging weight.

Having started the detox with a flu bug, I did allow myself some cold and flu tablets until it had cleared.  There was a moment when I was struggling to shake it off that I dreamt of having a nice strong vodka to try to rid myself of it.  And then last Friday on the way to work, I daydreamed of having a glass of wine upon completion of my day until reality struck.

Then on Saturday I put myself through the pain of being in a bar but only able to drink apple juice and rose lemonade, which is clearly an acquired taste that I haven’t acquired.  The lack of alcohol prohibits attempts to shout at others to make oneself heard.  And then on Sunday I popped to the Oakford – how I would have loved a Fruli.

No, No, No.  I stick to the plan.  If I say I am going to do something, I do it.  I will resist all temptation.

But I do really want a beer.

There Are No Snowmen In Poland

I had never been to Poland before, nor to a ski resort (unless you count Burnley) so I jumped at the opportunity of a cheap weekend away – just £15 a night B&B and the return flights were £70.

I didn’t know what to expect except alcohol, cold and snow.  However my first taste of snow appeared as we turned onto the M11 towards Stansted – the rain and sleet earlier in the journey had turned to a covering of snow and the traffic slowed, and as the snow got thicker towards Stansted, just one mile out the traffic came to a standstill with just an hour until our flight was due to leave.

I began to consider how much Ryanair were likely to charge us to swap flights, and even what I could do with my extended weekend in England, however the traffic started moving, slowly, and we arrived into the short-stay car park (the road to our pre-booked parking being closed by the police) at £39.00 a night and rushed towards the airport with 25 minutes left before the flight left.  How would I survive without my pre-flight beer?

The plane was delayed by over an hour due to the snow.

Upon arrival we soon discovered the delights of cheap Polish wodka at £5 a bottle for the journey from Krakow to Zakopane – and I rediscovered the audio torture of “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat”.  Not all my friends like minimal techno.

Zakopane itself was a pretty cute looking ski resort with a stunning mountainous backdrop of which I took absolutely no photographs of.

For the Friday evening we took horse-driven sleighs through the nearby villages, swigging vodka and pointing fire.  It was pretty fun though I couldn’t help questioning whether it was cruel on the horse.  What was cruel was only giving us one sausage when we returned to base – though the sausage was truly excellent and the bite through it so satisfying.  In terms of biting experiences, Polish sausages are on Suarez-levels.

Later we proceeded into the town and imbibed lots more cheap alcohol – when the beer is £1.20, sobriety is not on one’s mind.  The entertainment in most bars seemed to consist of local instrument-players, occasionally with a keyboard player, playing local-sounding music.  I did not hear one snippet of deep house.  My particular favourite bar was the piano bar, with swings at the bar and cosy seating – along with two Irish ladies that had clearly wanted to speak to me just because of my mullet.

And the snow fell too – heavily, quite a snow-storm with a good 20cm of fresh snow on the ground in the morning.

Not that I saw the morning due to my hangover.  Nor the afternoon.  I had actually almost convinced myself to get a ski lesson at just £7 however I missed my opportunity to go with everyone by about 7 hours.

Saturday night passed without note and Sunday arrived with a nice fresh flu bug.

I eventually managed to get out of bed and tried to find somewhere that would serve me food but gave up after a traumatic adventure including some Polish bloke walking towards me thrusting his fists out (I remained unflinched and raised my eyebrows) and then someone trying to persuade me to go with him to help him get a boat for his girlfriend’s birthday.  Why me?

That was pretty much that.

Initially though I liked the place I said I wouldn’t go back – I want to visit and experience new places – however I do feel that I have unfinished business.  It was an opportunity lost to my body’s disapproval of alcohol consumption and subsequent illness.  There could and should have been so much more fun.

I didn’t quite know what to make of the people over there.  Quite staid and stolid – the customer service wasn’t exactly to English standards either though I did tend to find that you might get a smile if you attempted to speak in Polish, though I often wondered if they were laughing at my pitiful attempts.

Did I mention the sausages?  The sausages were truly excellent – though anything else I ate wasn’t quite so interesting.  The beer and vodka was excellent.  And cheap, did I mention that?

The prices were the polar-opposite to Ibizan prices.  I spent less than £100 spending money, and that included transfers – realistically if I had been going skiing and not been ill then I probably would have needed £150.

You could kind of tell that it used to be a communist country – there was a lack of culture, save for the same three guys in every bar playing their traditional music.  I found the Polish quite boring but I feel that may be an overarching overhang of regimentarianism (yeah I made up the word but it works) from the communist days.  Everyone seemed rather staid and predictable.

In some ways the country had flashes of modernity – new roads and new houses with electronic boards, but then there were plenty of dreary communist-era housing blocks too, not to mention our slightly-aged entertainment system.

Even more notably there was not one snowman in Poland.