Bike week!

No… not a national event or anything like that – it’s just that this is the week that I got all my bike stuff sorted. WooHoo! It’s very *veeeeeery* nearly tickety-boo now, which pleases me. Indeed, it pleases me greatly – oh yes!

I’ve got a new front brake lever, which was one of the items trashed in my clumsy topple the other week, and a clutch lever to match – image-conscious tart that I am. And a new footrest hanger to replace the broken one, and a pair of handlebar muffs to keep my pinkies cosy in this inclement season. So I finally got around to fitting my heated handlebar grips too – toasty! 🙂

Ah yes, so the streets are unsafe once more. So I hear, anyway – nothing to do with me. Or is it? Hmmmm…. Anywards, I’m afraid there ain’t a lot of banter to deal out this instalment, ‘cos I’ve been working sooooo hard I’ve hardly left the house. Now that ain’t healthy.

+++ Calling all live music aficionados +++

This Wednesday 21st December sees a stellar lineup in the wonderfully laid-back Bartok on Chalk Farm Road, NW1. For those who haven’t been, free entry, comfy sofas and a well-stocked bar make this a top night on their own, but check out the talent: Energiser Bunny Ian Bennett, flat-picking marvel Michael Burke, poetic genius Peter Conway and the unstoppable rock machine that is Gin Panic (acoustically softened, and featuring Kate on cello!) guarantee you a top-notch evening of crackin’ acoustic tunes par excellence. Unmissable – see you there!

But Christmas is fast approaching, and I’m avoiding the shopping hordes like the plague. I’ve ranted on here before about the consumerist tsunami that wreaks havoc on credit card balances the world over at this time of year, so I won’t repeat myself. It doesn’t really affect me anyway, ‘cos I’m skint. Really, really skint, so I think everyone’s lucky if they get a card in the post from me this year! Actually, now I think of it, I have to wonder how that’s so different from every other year… Oh yeah – this year I’m actually sending cards! Well, one or three…

Off up to Hampstead to spend Christmas with the posse there again – let’s face it, I’ve had such a good time with the Gin Panic, etc. crowd the past couple of years, it’s a no-brainer. Loads of fine food, courtesy of gourmande Kerrie, a couple of bottles of fine wine to start us off – and a couple of dozen bottles of plonk to finish us off! Ah yes, the most wonderful time of the year indeed – but thankfully it comes but once a year. I don’t think I could handle a regular binge of those proportions…

Well, here’s to the early pre-Christmas payday, which means I run out of cash in early January (I kid you not!); the wicked social doings that make the season what it is; and more than anything else, I raise a fully-charged glass to the forlorn hope of making it through with no more than a mild hangover.

I can always dream….. 🙂

A sad day for happenins

But not too sad – put those violins away! It’s just a small adjustment, where the guestbook has taken its final signature. What was happening was that a bunch of crapheads flogging illegal meds were using the guestbook for free advertising – so now I’ve stopped it from accepting any more signatures. And I’ve posted a nice little message for them in case they do decide to post any more.

So once more, the end of an era – haven’t had a day like this since I had to kill off the message board when Russian black marketeers decided to use it for a similar purpose – but it wasn’t getting that much action anyway. And until I put a more secure option in place, it’s disabled. Never mind, eh?

Ahhhh, Christmas, Christmas! The ads and jingles and tired old ‘Christmas Number Ones’ are in full swing, not to mention the tinsel and lights and people dressing their houses up like (excuse the comparison) a tastelessly over-decorated Christmas tree – but we sensible types seize the moment to drown the sorrows accumulated over the past 11 months. Party!

Speaking of parties, a big birthday shout goes to my twin sisters Kathy & Ailish, who turned twenty[something] over the weekend. Only kidding, girls, I know how old you are. And you don’t look a day over thirty! 😀 In any case, I hope the morning after wasn’t too painful….

Funnily enough, rather than work slowing down in the approach to Christmas, it’s ramping up something silly – as I always say, a good complaint. But there’s still partying to be done! That doesn’t hold much water with my company, though – boo! Hang on – I work for myself… I’m such a rotten boss. Boo to me!

Had a minor celebration last week with my fellow hypno graduates, and we all pondered what the future would hold. Actually, a couple of them had a much better idea than me – I came away with (besides a battered liver) a determination to get my thinking cap on and do something with it. As I’ve said before, I’ll sort it in New Year – something part-time, probably.

Well, I’ll leave it at that. My next update will likely be Christmas Eve, as I won’t have a second to myself in the coming weeks. In the meantime, avoid those last-minute shopping crowds – shop online!

And on it goes…

Well, I had quite a triumphant moment there last week, when I arrived in from a board meeting to discover a hardback envelope waiting on the mat. Upon opening it – of course, there was a diploma, along with a letter of congratulations and best wishes, yada yada… And so it ends.

All the stress and angst of the last 10 months evaporated in a moment, as I clutched that piece of paper for which I’d been striving. And at the same time, there was that sense I always get at the end of something: is that it? A sense of something approaching disappointment, to temper the tremendous feeling of achievement – but the achievement won out in the end! Just.

So now it’s Alan Cunnane, DHypPsych(UK) to you. And whatever else you called me anyway (just not too early in the morning!) – none of that’s changed. I’m still a git at heart. But a hypnotic git – look into my eyes…. I don’t really know what to do with myself at the moment – I think I’ll wait till after Christmas to make any career decisions.

And of course, I’m a year older – again. It kinda loses it’s ooomph! after a certain point, or maybe that’s just cos it wasn’t a huge swingin’ party this year. It was fun, though – a good cross-section of mates old and new turned up at Zakudia for grub’n’gargles, and a few hardy souls went on into the night to party. Not me, though – I was feeling old and tired. To the extent that I actually had a senior moment, thought it was an hour later than it actually was, and only discovered this on Lewisham high street as I searched the bus stop timetables for a night bus. Yargh! I’m too young to have senior moments! And I hadn’t even had *that* much to drink…!!! Oh well, there’s always next year’s frenzy to plan…

The bike is laid up in the garage at the moment, feeling a tad unwell. This is due, of course, to its clumsy, lardy owner dropping it at a virtual standstill while turning round in a sidestreet on the South Bank, snapping off the front brake lever and cracking the right-side footrest hanger – look, Mum, no brakes! So a helpful breakdown chap had to come and take me and bike home – cheers Carl! By now, there are more scratches than paint on the bodywork – bah….

I’ve wittered enough. Look to your social calendars – I get paid on Monday!

Ooh – that was harsh!

That was a rough weekend, and no mistake! Got the exam presented to us at 2 on Saturday afternoon after a morning of revision, and three incredibly short hours later we were told to put our pens down. I don’t think I was alone in feeling that was a very very tough exam! Standing outside the exam room afterwards and watching my fellow students leave, there was a universal expression of shell-shock on every face…

But on to better things, and back to the Uncommon Knowledge office for a litte end-of-course soirée – we quaffed beer and wine, ate the munchies that were laid on, and disappeared off into Brighton in search of further thrills. I have no idea what time the night ended, but I was completely sozzled – and judging by the state of the class the following day, I wasn’t alone!

So what’s next? Well, for the moment I’m not setting up in the hypnotherapy business – not full-time, at least. I’m available to heal your ills, or at least help with them, so give me a shout if you want something tweaked. Right now, though, the Synthetix business requires my full attention, so that’s where I’m at for the time being.

By the way, if anybody finds themselves at a loose end on Saturday night, there’s going to be some kind of a celebration of mine & Gwyneth’s advancing years, probably somewhere about the South Bank. Nothing more definite than that at the moment, but I’ll be sure to update you if anything comes to mind. Of course, today is Gwyn’s birthday, so a big whoop to her!

More to come, when my brain starts working again…

The Prisoner escapes! and other stories…

[continued from this post]

Up and at ’em the following day; the original plan was to go up the hill again, but we decided against it on the grounds of aching limbs and saturated hiking gear – poor Pete had to wear his soggy jeans and boots again, as he hadn’t brought a change! Even with the drying facilities provided by our hosts, that stuff was *not* drying!

In the absence of a climbing plan, and with a marked reluctance to rush back to London, Pete decided that he wanted to visit the location where the old series The Prisoner was filmed, and it turned out to be a stone’s throw from where we were – sweeeet!

And so on to the bizarre village of Port Meirion, which was conceived and built by an architect named Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, between 1925 and 1976, to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. And what a place it is! Colourful in continental style, borrowing architectural features from all over the place, but still green and peaceful and pretty – I would heartily recommend the place to anyone, Prisoner fans or not. They provide accommodation, so you can whisk your beloved away for a naughty weekend…

But it was strange to be touring the place of whose existence I had only just learned – I always thought it was a set! And wandering down to the quayside, I could see the place where the escape sequences were shot, and Patrick McGoohan was engulfed by that big bubble-gum ball thingy… Very strange, but a wonderfully serene experience. All in all, a damn fine weekend.

+++ STOP PRESS +++

Gin Panic‘s new album, Moved By Remote, produced by Dew and packed with poundin’, sweaty, and yet melodic and beautifully crafted rawk, is out now and available from their website: – get it now, while they’re hot. And tell them Al sent you – they might buy me a pint! 🙂

In other news, I had the last of my practical hypnosis assessments, where I had a woman who wanted to deal with her husband’s passive-aggressiveness so that she could get on with her own life – phew! But apparently I passed that one with flying colours. Now just to the final written exam on the 5th of November – hear that sound? It’s me manically chewing my nails…

Then a nice long weekend in Ireland to celebrate my youngest sis Claire’s 18th birthday – one of those rare events where the whole clan appears under the same roof. And a good evening was had by all. For the rest of the time, I loafed about for the most part – I had to have a lazy trip to Ireland just once! No rushing around like a blue-a*sed fly for me this time – oh no. although I ended up being recruited to various tasks, like typing CVs, hanging framed photos, dismantling motorbikes, etc, etc. And yet it all somehow seemed to be relaxing.

Coming back on Ryanair, I vowed never to fly with them again. On the way over, I had a seat whose consistency resembled a 40 year-old sofa with all the foam gone; on the return trip, the seat sagged to the left, and wouldn’t stay in the upright position. Thankfully, my mind was taken off this by the girls sat next to me, who invited me to a game of Shithead that they were playing. And I only managed to lose once, under their careful tutelage. They were in Dublin with a huge posse for a friend’s 21st birthday party, and as I walked through the corridors towards baggage reclaim, I heard some of their friends talking about me: “this bloke sat next to […] was funny, telling the steward about his seat: ‘It won’t stay up!’ – missed a big opportunity for a laugh there, I thought!” – I felt like turning round and saying something, but I left it. 🙂

So now it’s ‘head down, bum up’ as my Aussie chum Kiz would say (always thought that sounded rude, but maybe that’s just my perverted thought process!), while I bone up on all the stuff they’ve been trying to beat into my thick skull over the past 9 months. It would be a savage bummer to get this far and lose on a technicality, wouldn’t it???!! But it’ll all be over in time for my birthday shandy evening (all I can afford at this point!), so I’ll have worked up a thirst by then. Cheers!

Up to the top, then down again

Nothing to see here…

Well, Pete & I made our epic journey to north Wales to climb a mountain, and by gad we did it! Through fog, gale, hail and lashing rain we made it to the top of Snowdon, and it was a bit odd. Certainly a feeling of achievement, as we stood there and had our photo taken by a fellow hiker, but a bit of a let-down at the same time: we were deep in cloud, and visibility was less than 10 metres in places – so no spectacular panorama for me!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started at sparrow’s fart on Saturday morning, getting myself sorted and biking over at licence-threatening speeds to Ealing, and Pete’s place. A quick cup of tea, and we were on the road to Llanberis. Stopping briefly at the B&B we were staying at, we dumped our bags and headed for the starting point of the trek.

Here, we stopped for a quick cuppa and a bite before starting to climb – Pete with his sensible turkey-on-wholemeal sandwich, me with my buttered scone(!). The words “idiot” and “loon” spring to mind, on hindsight. So off we set, storming up the slopes, observing the train that chugs its way to the top laden with sensible people, greeting the hordes of people who were pouring down off the mountain as we ascended – including several mountain bikers, and one chap who was running – RUNNING! Should’ve got the point there, methinks.

About halfway up, there’s a resting point, where a large bunch of hikers were gathered on their way down. We asked people roughly how far we still had to go, and one middle-aged chap, bundled up in his waterproof gear, said “you won’t see much, it’s very cloudy” – we said that’s OK. “The cafe will be closed, and the last train will be on its way down by now” – that’s alright, we’re walking down anyway, and we’ll manage with our water. “It’s very cold up there!” – no problem, we’ve got layers. If we only knew…

Further up, the ‘path’ began to deteriorate, until it became a steep slog on shale and slate – by now the rain was lashing down, we’d hit cloud level about two-thirds of the way up and visibility was pretty grim. My waterproof mac was doing OK on the top half (when the hood wasn’t being blown off my head by the wind), but my trousers and boots were *soaked* through. A repeat of the BIGFoot scenario, when the water was frothing through the toes of the boots with every step… And then we got to the summit – or so I thought. Looking to my left, I saw a raised platform with steps going up to it, and muttered expletives at it before climbing to the top.

Pete & I shared the platform with two other intrepid souls, and we took turns photographing each other before clambering off – the wind was gusting something scary up there, and with nothing but cloud around us it looked like something from a bad fantasy movie! And then, all we had to do was go all the way down again. By this time, my old knee injury had resurfaced, courtesy of the fact that I’d forgotten to bring my knee support from the B&B – what a plonker! But we made it down, and in daylight too – which we were not expecting. Stopping at a tea shop near the bottom gave us a chance to rest up before heading back to hot showers and hitting the mean streets of Llanberis for a bite to eat.

[to be continued…]

I must be mad

Here I am, at the beginning of October, planning a mountain hike in Wales. WTF?! Have I taken leave of my senses??? I think the euphoria of emerging from the 50-mile BIGFoot extravaganza relatively unscathed allowed me to be a trifle susceptible to Pete’s daft plans – oh dear oh dear. Pray for me!

But Snowdon isn’t the limit of his insane machinations – oh no. Chatting with him this evening, he came up with the genius idea of tackling our next project early next year: Ben Nevis! The loon! I’ve heard the horror stories – it ain’t a family day out!!! Well, maybe I’ll have a headache that particular weekend. Or something.

Maybe after all my hypno studies, I’ll have myself a good old-fashioned brain haemorrhage – the end is nigh, and I still don’t feel anywhere near up to diploma standard. What a shocker – last practical assessment is the second weekend of October, then the final written exam is the first weekend of November. Ouch.

Well, there’s still the trip to Ireland for my baby sis’s 18th birthday hurrah, and I can buy her her first legal pint. Note I said “legal” – I remember her nicking my mate John’s beer when she was like 10 or so… Not going on the bike this time, for three reasons: (a) money, (b) time and (c) weather. But good old Ryanair comes up with the goods on a regular basis, with deals like a return flight for a Mars bar and a packet of crisps – enjoy it while you can, people, cos once the Green lobby gets a hold, air travel won’t be cheap any more…

Further to my last on my American chum Steffie, she’s safely ensconced in halls of residence in Paddington, getting down to the serious business of being a student and doing some major bargain hunting. For a girl who really doesn’t like bargains, that’s gotta hurt, he he! 😀

Sod all else to report – I’m gloomily observing the evenings shortening at a hellish pace, and contemplating the prospect of another dark, dank, miserable winter in London. If only I could bugger off to the sun for six months, I’d be much happier!

Back down to earth…

It’s been a mad few weeks, and no mistake – top mate Ben has been making the most of his last few weeks in Blighty before jetting off back to Oz (b’stard!), and I’ve been making the most of them with him! With the net result that we’re both a bit shook – but sadly, he’s gone now, back to the sun, the sea, the girlfriend, the BMW convertible… I do hate him sometimes! 🙂

Enough of such frivolity – time to be getting serious and doing work- and study-related things, I fear. Perhaps I fear too much, cos it doesn’t feel like I’m getting that much done – argh! Anxiety rears its ugly head again; time for another pint.

Well, it’s been a fairly mundane life apart from the galactic-scale alcohol abuse with Ben. Although the bugger has planted the idea of visiting Australia back in my brain – visiting, and maybe even moving, at some distant point. I’ve been saying that for years, though. And I’m not even sure they’d have me!

“G’day mate – what can I do yer for?”
“Can I come in, please?”
“I can doss better than just about anybody.”
“Nah mate – got loads of dossers here already. And you don’t look like you can hold your beer, either…”

Enough. Getting some work done on the bike, and it’s gradually getting better and better as we speak. I’m really loving it since they fitted a smaller rear sprocket, raising the gearing – it’s smooooooooth on motorways, and bloody illegal in town. This weekend, a new pair of front brake discs are to be fitted. Then it’s a pair of Hayabusa front callipers, a GSX-R750 gearbox to get that 6th cog, a double bubble screen… I know, I can’t leave anything alone! But I do love it.

Heading off to the homeland in October to celebrate the brother’s and the youngest sister’s birthdays – she’s coming of age, lads! So it’ll be off down the pub for her first legal pint, where she’ll probably drink me under the table. Ahhh yes, I remember when I could drink for me country….

On another note, I’m joining my mucker/colleague/boss Pete for a ramble up Snowdon at the beginning of October. A burnt offering to the rain gods would be highly appropriate at this point – I really don’t fancy a soaking. But I’m pretty sure it’ll be loadsa fun, whatever happens. So long as we don’t get anything like the floods of last weekend – John & Gwyneth’s house almost became an island at one point!

My mate Steffie is coming over from NY next week, to spend the best part of a year at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, to you) studying… well, whatever it is you study there. Great – more piss-ups. I love them, really, but I’m sure my liver doesn’t…

Right – that’s it. I’m going to watch a DVD. Or something…

Walking Wounded indeed!!!

Well, *that* turned out to be quite a prophetic name in the end! I guess the lessons of the last event two years ago were wasted on me… HUGE blisters and knackered feet, ankles and knees, along with shredded shins from brambles and nettles – and a lovely rash around the top of my sock line, which may or may not have been poison ivy. Wonderful!

We did train, we really trained hard – but no matter what training we did in the run-up to the event, I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the amount that the 26-miler on Saturday hurt. Between heatstroke, blisters, knackered limbs and repeated steep hills (the air was *blue*!), we were a sorry bunch.

Friday was a truly horrible start to the walk. I woke up at 6 in the morning at John & Gwyn’s place, to hear the delightful sound of thunder outside, and rain pattering against the window. Bugger! So we got ourselves sorted, loaded up the car and headed to Southwater for the start of the walk, and the rain never stopped – merely teasing us by occasionally lightening up. The day went on like that, walking through soaking wet grass, trudging along muddy forest paths, clambering over slimy stiles, and generally getting more wet and more miserable.

Arriving back at camp after 14 miles of this, I discovered that every item of clothing was soaked through, but my boots were *full* of water – so much so that it was foaming out of the top of the toes with every step… But there was the consolation of being among the first to cross the line that day. And of course the massage therapists were there, working their magic – I had myself a masseuse with fingers of steel work on my calves, which was gratifyingly painful!

Saturday, despite a horrifically early start at 5:45, had at least the compensation of decent weather. I donned two pairs of socks and struggled into my still-wet boots, and we embarked on our marathon-length trek across the South Downs. Halfway through the day there was the steepest climb I can remember doing without steps, and I reflected that it would have been well-nigh impossible with the previous day’s weather.

As the day wore on, the line stretched out and I began to feel twinges all over the place. And I don’t think the wet boots helped, either – my feet were developing some nasty hot patches. By the second-last rest stop, John & I had to take an extended rest, and I was presented with the sorely tempting offer of a lift to the next rest stop 2.7 miles further on. After that stop it was a mere 3 miles to the finish, but I’m a stubborn bugger. So I declined. With great difficulty. Fool that I am!

And this was where it all started to break down. Halfway to the next stop, Peter strode on ahead (Phil had disappeared into the distance ages beforehand), leaving John & me limping along through the fields. Coming to a village, we were greeted by two of the supervising team, who indicated Pete lying on the grass and said “look after him, will you?” – the man had taken a little too much sun and wasn’t very well as a result. We toiled along to the next rest stop, where we sat in the grass and took the decision to give up and take a lift the rest of the way to camp. I was all in, and couldn’t face the thought of doing another mile – let alone three!

But after a while, the back-markers turned up – a wonderfully ebullient lot who formed the team of “Michelle’s MS Marchers”. They pressed me to come along with them, and I declined for a while, but eventually was persuaded – and John too (I told Pete to stay where he was and take a lift back to camp). So we walked the last three miles, despite howling protests from our feet, legs, hips, backs – the lot. And we arrived into camp at about seven in the evening, 11 hours after setting out. As I checked in, I muttered “I’m never doing that again!” – after dinner, though, I was feeling a little more human. Until I went to have my feet massaged and the masseuse discovered something like seven blisters on my feet! Ouch.

Sunday morning was a lie-in (till 6!), then we had to break camp before warming up and hitting the road. I went to the medic tent to have my blisters taped up, and ended up having four toes taped, a compeed plaster on the ball of my left foot, and tape around the balls of both feet. John & I elected to go to the front of the pack, as we’d started there for the previous two days – and somehow ended up finishing the day at the front! Most gratifying, considering the state we’d been in the previous day – at the closing barbeque, I joked about doing the same again next week, but nobody laughed very much… 🙂

And so to arriving home, peeling off the socks welded to my feet, and unwrapping the tape that had been holding them together all day. On hindsight, I could have lived with the tape permanently attached – especially as it removed a large amount of skin from my right little toe and the ball of my left foot. To get a picture (unless I post one online for your horror!), imagine removing a postage stamp-sized area of skin from the ball of the foot just behind the big toe. Take into account that there was quite a build-up of skin there, due to all the walking practice, and you get an idea of how horrible the damage is! Right now, I’m bandaged up and going nowhere – it hurts too much…

So it goes. It wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy, and I’ll have the scars to show off to anyone who cares. My shins look as though I was tackled by a sword-wielding leprechaun, and my feet are a righteous mess. Will I do it again next year? I think I’ll volunteer, unless I can find some magic solution that stops blisters from forming. For the moment, though, I’m staying indoors till the sole of my left foot is whole again!

Thanks for the donations, people – I wouldn’t have walked 50 miles without them! 🙂