Ant Cule Reviews... Being Alive

An Extremely Subjective View of Being A Human

Author: antcule (page 2 of 4)

Ant Cule Reviews… Spring Cleaning

When does Spring spring? Is it the weather? Is it purely the month? Is it when you see the first goslings drifting down the river? When you’re honked at by a goose-mother? When does Spring spring?

For me, there’s one definitive measure for if Spring has sprung. And that is “Am I wearing sunglasses and a jacket at the same time?” If the answer is yes, then you’re bound to be in the season known globally in English as Spring. Wearing sunglasses and a light jacket makes you immediately look like a badass, I’ll tell you that for free. You can imagine yourself as the Terminator, or as the kind of person who walks down the street talking loudly into a bluetooth earpiece. That’s the feeling Spring should invoke in you.

And traditionally with the ushering in of Spring, comes the ushering out of old clutter.  I’ve never consciously indulged in a “Spring Clean” before. I’ve only recently started consciously indulging in cleaning of any sort. Haha, no, just joking, hahaha, I’m a filthy pig.

What is it to Spring Clean? It is to look at your living area afresh. Check your shelves for books you’ll never read again, films you’ll never watch again, bananas you’ll never eat again. It is to look at your clothes and be honest about those t-shirts you’ve now been wearing for more than ten years. It is to move beyond giving the surfaces a good wipe down, and investing in some elbow grease. It is to take everything out of a cupboard and put it back in in a different order so it looks more appealing. It is to change over from your Winter to your Summer duvet.

Spring Cleaning is to let go of your attachments things. It is to become a Buddhist for the day. It is to take an itinerary of your life-things, and adjust it accordingly. It is to finally get rid of that vacuum cleaner that has long since been usurped by Henry. It is to marvel at the length of Henry’s wire, as it stretches down a full flight of stairs. It is to lambast your previous vacuum cleaner for its poor suction and its comparatively short wire. It is to throw out your old kettle.

Anyone want some free stuff?

Anyone want some free stuff?

To Spring Clean is to clear a new space in your life, where you didn’t think space could be found. Space that you can fill with better, newer stuff.

Now, does anyone want a free vacuum cleaner, kettle, or one of a selection of books and films?

Overall I highly recommend Spring Cleaning to give your life a good once over, and to help you stop being so bloody attached to things. Also, it’s nice to live in a clean flat.

Ant Cule Reviews… Getting Caught Photographing The Aftermath of the London Marathon

Okay, I’ll level with you. This one is a little niche even for a website about reviewing specific elements of my life. And yet here I am writing it, and here you are reading it.

Allow me to set the scene. I had been to the shop. Tuesday. Slung over my shoulder, a canvas bag full of gubbins for dinner. My mind ambled this way and that, and walking along the Woolwich Road ultimately led me to thinking about how I’d watched the London Marathon runners doing their running on the Sunday. It seemed so alien, that this road, now swarming with traffic, was home to thousands of betrainered feet, pootling along the ginormous running course. Traffic of a different kind, I suppose.

One particularly striking aspect of the marathon runners was the gleeful abandon with which they cast aside their (presumably free) bottles of Lucozade and packets of energy gunk. Sure, at the time I didn’t begrudge them pelting the pavement with basically full bottles of orangey-sweet goodness, but, you know, over 30,000 runners came through. That shit adds up. And so it struck me that despite a superhuman effort on behalf of the organisers, there still remained evidence of the drink-chucking frenzy that had taken place.

It came to my mind to photograph such a piece of detritus, with the half-formed idea of reviewing what it’s like watching the London Marathon (it gives you motion sickness, the sound of thousands of feet clomping along is very satisfying). I whipped out my phone, and snapped an empty packet of energy-goo nestling by a car wheel. At just that time, someone came walking briskly around the corner carrying some sort of cardboard box. I gawked, open mouthed at him, as if he had just busted me, trousers around my ankles, popping a squat at the side of the road.

And here it is, the photograph that caused all the trouble

And here it is, the photograph that caused all the trouble

Needless to say, he didn’t care. If anything, he looked shocked that I looked shocked. I, meanwhile, waddled off ahead of him, cursing my stupidity. Doubtless he would think I was off to send an email to the council; Subject: Marathon Detritus. I wanted to grab him and say “I’m not a nark, man!” Instead, I cast a furtive glance back at him, and kind of snorted coolly, as if it was all one big misunderstanding.

Overall, getting caught photographing the aftermath of the London Marathon is not recommended, for doing so will surely damage your street-cred.

Ant Cule Reviews… Receiving A Postcard

The world is full of surprises. But mostly, they’re big and/or nasty surprises. There are very few small and good surprises.

Finding 50p in your pocket. Walking through a nice-smelling section of air. Seeing someone reading a book that you’ve also read and enjoyed. Seeing a pigeon in an unusual place.

Spotted doing a bit of after work shopping in "Coo-stle" Mall #businesspigeon #norwich

A photo posted by Ant Cule (@antok87) on

And one of those pleasures, the small pleasures, the pleasures that make you feel a little spark that the world might be alright in the end, is trotting down to get the post and seeing a cheery little piece of card beaming up at you from the matt. You turn the card over, and there’s writing – actual writing! in pen and ink! – in a hand you distantly recognise. No matter whether the message is short, there is something so personal about knowing someone has taken the time to pick out a postcard, uncap a pen, and write you a message.

We live in a world of digital ink, and emails and whatnot. But I can’t see, no matter how much we try to humanise ‘tech’, how it can connect with us in the same way as seeing someone’s handwriting. There’s physical effort in handwriting. There’s connection between human and pen and pen and paper. There’s mistakes that you can’t get rid of (unless you have one of those pen erasers).

Receiving a postcard automatically makes you think “I wish I sent more postcards”. And that’s a great thought to have. You should send more postcards! So should I! On my desk I have a book called ‘Chekhov; A Life in Letters’. No-one in this day and age is going to be known as ‘A Man of Emails’. Man I wish I lived in the 19th century. Just the 19th century with wifi and all the modern conveniences that we enjoy (eg. coffee, Netflix, etc.)

All in all I highly recommend receiving a postcard for getting a warm feeling and one of life’s little surprises. Why not surprise someone whose address you happen to know today? Send them a letter, or a handmade postcard, or just a regular postcard!

Ant Cule Reviews… Being Poorly

I looked something like this. (photo from mumsthenerd.co.uk)

The few days before: Notice I’m looking kind of pale and splotchy. Internalise it as just my usual complexion gone a little haywire. Rosalind notices paleness. Claim it’s just my complexion. I’m a pale sort of guy. In the sun I go from pale to sunburnt. Nothing in between. I know nothing of healthy glows. Feel more tired than usual, but otherwise okay.

Sunday: Play football, as is tradition. It’s a hot day. Wear suncream, take drink. Play. Really badly. Feel the heat even more than usual. Tire out even more quickly than usual. Work harder to make up for mistakes. Drink lots of water afterwards. Game ends (last goal wins thanks to my mistake). Stupid body, not doing what I want it to. Walk back to tube station. Feel strange. Thirsty. Hot. Light-headed. Buy water, snack, and head home for lunch. On the tube just stare into space. Get home. Feel odd. Have lunch. Eat half. Feel strange. Drink water. Nothing will tame this thirst. After lunch, feel a bit better. Like myself. Feel guilty that girlfriend has been cleaning the bathroom whilst I’ve been playing football. That doesn’t help anyone. Have a cool shower. Feel a bit better. We go shopping. Stroll around the supermarket. Lean on the trolley. Definitely not feeling right. My stomach is roiling, my head is aching. Just concentrate on shopping. Drive home with the window down. Not a long drive, luckily. Once car is parked I sit there feeling ill. Put my head between my legs. It’ll pass. Try and carry shopping in. Get to turning, and have to throw up. As is apparently perfectly normal, I feel better after throwing up my lunch. Rosalind says it smells of cucumber. Sorry about that.
Lie on sofa. Drink liquids. Get into bed, and snooze. Wake up only to throw up twice more. Sleep.
Rosalind clears up sick. Feel bad.

Monday: Still feeling rotten. Sleep most of the day. Otherwise, lie on the sofa. Watch ‘Frank’ (feat. Michael Fassbender). It’s good, and weird. Wanted it to be funnier. I mean, it was funny. It was also sad. I feel funny. I am sad. At least I’m not throwing up any more. Watch a lot of Community in bed. Snooze. At least I can have toast for dinner.

Tuesday: Feel dozy. Snooze. Get up. Haven’t even got the energy to walk around the house. Watch The Babadook. Which is really good. Why am I watching sad/disturbing films in the midst of my illness? Misery loves company and all that. You know, it could be worse. I could be battling The Babadook. Otherwise, it’s mainly a diet of snoozing, and toast. I haven’t had a coffee for two days. I wonder if part of the illness is my caffeine dependency kicking back. It feels like there’s a fuzzy veil between me and the world. Manage to get enough appetite to eat something that’s not toast. Lasagne, in fact.

Wednesday: Manage to get out and about for a little bit. 2 hours of tutoring. Feel completely spent afterwards. Do manage to enjoy it during the actual teaching though. Appetite returning somewhat. Still kind of grey-looking and feeling.

Thursday: Have a meeting in the morning at Liverpool Street. It goes well. Enjoy it. Have a cup of tea instead of a coffee. No coffee for four days(!). Discover that coffee binds to iron and prevents your body from properly absorbing the iron. Wonder if the amount of coffee I drink (a not-excessive, yet definitely dependency-forming 2 cups a day before this) combined with going vegetarian has lead to me not getting enough iron. It would explain the lethargy. The greyness. My family is prone to that. Need to eat more irony food (and I don’t mean, like, cool, forgotten 70s throwbacks). Finally register at the doctors. No time like the present, hey?

Friday: Feeling more like my old self. Still tired, still fuzzy. Bit better, though. Manage to go to the theatre in the evening, and see Calculating Kindness at the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s really well performed, with a great set, and great lighting. Just wanted the ideas to mesh even more. Something about it felt a little unsatisfying. But still, it was good. The theatre got really hot. Possibly because we were sat just below the lights. It really was distractingly hot. Felt completely spent after that.

Weekend: Mostly relax. Do some shopping, get a herb garden for our balcony. Plant the chilli-seeds I’ve been meaning to plant since last year. Spend time with Rosalind. Start to feel restored again. We play a lot of Xbox (The Lego Movie game – we’re a great team). Feeling restored. Still, need to get a blood test. Will probably pass out when they take my blood.

Overall, I really don’t recommend getting ill and it taking a week out of your life, with the feeling awful and having no energy to do anything. Instead, try eating healthily, drinking less coffee, and listening to your body.

UPDATE: Do nearly pass out when they take my blood.

Ant Cule Reviews… Getting A New Pet

Say “Hello there lil’ fella” to the latest addition to the household.

Be warned, though; he’s cute though perhaps not ‘traditionally’ cute – depending on what your deeply-etched, engrained-by-society expectations of beauty are.

Okay. Without any further ado… Here he is…

Wait wait wait wait wait. I just need to emphasise, okay… He’s not furry or fluffy and he doesn’t have big eyes. In fact, he’s slimy and scaly and has very small eyes. And his breed are quite notorious for their bad tempers. They can be quite aggressive, actually. So, you know. Go easy on him.

Okay. I’ll take a picture now.

Wait, that wasn’t a good one.

I’ll take another.

Okay… Mmmmyeah, it’s okay. I’m just not sure I’m ever going to capture his best side, you know? I’m not sure he has a best side, even. It’s quite sweet, the way he always looks angry. Like he wants to bite you. Like he wants to headbutt you. Like he wants to put you in hospital. Sweet.

Okay. Okay. Here we go:

Isn’t he sweeeeeeeeet?

What a cutie. Like I said, not conventionally cute. We can’t let him out of his cage, ever, unfortunately.

But I really feel like, you know, if he gets into a loving house, how bad can he be?

Ow, he bit me! Ouch! What a prick.

Overall, I don’t recommend getting a new pet, unless you opt for a dog, because dogs are the greatest. Don’t get this guy. I suggest the best way to deal with this breed is to show them that kindness is a better long term solution than meanness, and that thought, debate, listening, and trying to understand each other is better than open hostility.

NB. Clearly, this fresh piece of satire is an April Fool’s prank! The pet we actually got, is this guy:

Ant Cule Reviews… Drinking Water

Water. Water of life. Jesus gives us the water of life.

That’s what the hymn told me, way back in prep school. But I feel like I didn’t quite appreciate the key message of this hymn. Water OF LIFE. (jesusgivesusthe) WATER OF LIFE. WATER = LIFE.

Water is life.

That’s what they were trying to tell me. It wasn’t about who gives us the water. It was about how important water is. It’s crucial to survival. Every so often I’ll have a period of time that reminds me just how much water is necessary even to just sit around. So think about when you’re rushing from place to place. Your body is clever, so if you’re focussing on something else it won’t bother you with how thirsty you are until you get a raging headache and feel like you’re going to keel over.

And man oh man, drinking water is so good. It’s like the clear liquid we all need to survive. It’s like the most refreshing feeling imaginable. Okay, imagine a dry patch of sand (this is your mouth) and now imagine pouring some water on it (drinking some water) THAT’S HOW GOOD IT IS TO DRINK WATER! Or imagine a clear liquid that anyone can drink and it alleviates their thirst – THAT IS WATER!!! Imagine a universal drink with life-giving properties THAT’S WATER!!!!!! And by universal I mean, literally, universal for all life forms that we know of so far – WATER!!!!! The great liquid!!!! The wonderful stuff!!!! Imagine a drink you can bathe in- WATER!!!! A drink you can dab onto your wrists when you’re too hot- WATER!!!! A drink you can boil pasta or vegetables in- WATER!!!!!

DRINK MORE WATER!!!

Overall I highly recommend drinking water every day, for refreshment from the versatile clear drinking liquid. Water.

(this post has been brought to you by Water – “Mmm, that’s a good clear liquid.”)

Ant Cule Reviews… Being Sad After A Football Match

It’s only a game.

It’s not real life.

Why are you so sad?

But it’s more than a game. And it is real life.

Emotions burn high around football matches. Like a match, like a flame, they burn bright and hot, but ultimately burn themselves out. The joy is sweet and rolls around inside you, sometimes for mere hours, sometimes for days, but it always rolls itself out, as soon as the next game kicks off. The sadness swells in you, closing your mouth, forcing you to relive the worst moments in your head, forcing you to kick out at innocent beer cans that lay in the street, but as soon as the next game kicks off it’s gone. There’s always next week. Except next week’s an international break.

People love to invest odd things with meaning. Trees, jumpers, pants, gods, books. Games. We love to pretend these things have any bearing on our mood. What is it? Feeling part of something? We are nothing as a species without motivation. Does football give those of us who follow it just that? Motivation? A reason? Something to invest the swirling richness of our emotions into? Feeling connected to tens of thousands of others with disappointment as an Agüero header slams against the post is intoxicating. Your voice is one of thousands, and is all of thousands. It’s addictive, the up of winning a corner in the first minute. The down of conceding a staggeringly predictable goal. It provides some emotional instability into what is an otherwise emotionally stable life.

Life is a series of ups and downs writ large across a number of years. Football is that distilled into 90 minutes. Each match is like an accelerated life. Some are boring and uneventful. Some are rollercoaster rides from beginning to end. Some are sad. Some are happy. Each is unique, and specific to the circumstances in which it takes place. And many have the ability to touch many thousands of others.

Also it’s bloody fun isn’t it.

Overall, I recommend getting sad when your football team loses. Just not for too long. After all, there’s always next week. Or next season.

 

Ant Cule Reviews… Overplaying An Album

I’ve just rediscovered an album that had suffered from prior overplaying. And now I’m overplaying it again. Someone send help!

The album in question is ‘Keep You‘ by Pianos Become The Teeth. It’s extremely good. They went from being punky-screamo-raw upstarts via an examination of grief, to being epic, emotional, melodic kind of post-rock/post-hardcore? The transformation in just three albums in sound is incredible. And ‘Keep You’ is just a stunning achievement. It’s incredibly layered as an album, with intensely personal and gnomic lyrics that make you feel like you’re just hearing singer and lyricist Kyle Durfey’s brain; riffs that echo each other, and tangle up, and burst and bloom; drums that shimmer and skitter behind them. I love it so much.

And at the moment it’s just about the only album I listen to. Ostensibly, of course, there’s no problem here. I love the album. I get richly rewarded every time I hear it. It unfurls more of its secrets and hecka-cool moments the more I listen. What am I so scared of then?

I first heard this album around 18 months ago. I instantly fell in love with it. And listen to it on hard rotation for two months, got to know and love the ins and outs of each song, the flow of the work as a whole. And then I moved on to the next thing. And the album lay dormant, with all its intricacies (I really love this album), just not being listened to. And now that I’ve rediscovered all that I love about it (plus a few bonus tracks!), I don’t want to let go of it again. But I’m scared I might. I have a tendency to go hard at one album for a long period of time, and then let it lie. Sometimes I’ll go back, but I’ll usually be onto the next thing. Is there any way to combat this in myself? Is there any point in trying to resist my nature? Is it my nature?

The thing is, I love getting into the cracks and crevices of an album, finding it’s strengths and weaknesses. But I also love hearing new music and new sounds, old artists trying new things, new artists trying old things. I suppose that overplaying an album will be a by-product of that forevermore. And it leaves something you know well to be rediscovered at a later date. Like I’ve also just rediscovered Linkin Park’s first album. Fresh.

Overall, I neither recommend nor don’t recommend overplaying an album. I think getting to know something intimately over a short period of time, and then periodically reminding yourself of what drew you into it can be a wonderful thing. By the same token, I want to keep loving the albums I love for all time, and only add to the collection with new stuff. So essentially, I’ll just keep right on trucking.

Ant Cule Reviews… Watering The Plants

Do you know what? Plants are just like you or me. They need water to live. They need water, and sunlight, and someone to listen to their problems. Just like you and me.

In our flat, we have cultivated quite a collection of houseplants. We have a humble rubber plant. A sultry spider plant. Several coy peace lilies. Along with a great number of uppity cacti.

A cactus in his natural garb.

I love these plants. I see them as part of the family. But are they? Or are they trying to oust me as the king of the household? What are they plotting? Plants can communicate you know. They send messages out in frequencies we humans can’t hear. They use their roots to pass messages like naughty children passing notes in a classroom. They whisper, they plot, they howl with derision every time I enter a room.

And yet I pour water into their greedy soil as if I were a mindless drone, good for nothing more than giving our plant overlords a good soaking once in a while. Well, let me tell you something plants, I am the king here. I have the keys to the flat. I hold the watering can! And I shall let you live only for as long as you give me great relaxation by being so beautiful and purifying the very air I breath. But if I hear one whispered word of your attempt to overthrow me, then that’s it! No more water!

Overall, I highly recommend watering the plants, as it helps placate the plant-kings, and staves off the inevitable revolution.

Ant Cule Reviews… Discovering A Pristine Notebook

I’m a man who loves stationary. I can spend up to an hour in Paperchase. I could spend a portion of time in Waterstones looking at the stationary. Rymans is perfectly nice too. The point is, I really love stationary. Actually, I really love paper. Pens are okay, though often seem overpriced to me. Paper though. Whooph. You can’t put a price on that.

Where does it come from? My love of books? My love of tactile experiences – like dipping my hand in a bag of seeds, errrrrm YES PLEASE! ? What is it about blank notebooks and pads of paper that keep me coming back? I mean, I have gadgets, I have plenty of digital storage places that are much more convenient for note taking than actual paper. So why do I keep just seeing what they have if I stroll past a stationary shop?

On my desk, which is pretty messy, I have books and notebooks just about everywhere. This morning, I looked through a selection of four – in two of them were notes from around this time last year, when I was tutoring at UEA. Another had been designated my ‘book club’ notes – really interesting to read again, by the way. And also, who wants to start a book club, friends??! – and the fourth and final one, conveniently, fatefully at the bottom of the pile… A total blank. Crisp, clean, clear white pages (well, a kind of cream colour – premium paper grade). An optimistic little clutch of pages waiting for ideas to be expanded upon, waiting for thoughts to be jotted down, waiting… Waiting… Full of poise, promise, potential, paper. Full of the possibility of becoming pages of notes that I’ll look over in another year’s time, and briefly be transported back to where I am now.

There’s something personal, isn’t there, about handwriting notes. As if your thoughts are travelling down from your brain, into your shoulder, along your arm, into your fingertips and out onto the page through the conduit we call a pen. Your handwriting is what it looks like inside your head. My handwriting is loopy.

Evernote, much as I like and use it simply can’t compete with that ancient, infinitely flexible, physically strenuous (sometimes) act. It makes it too easy. Writing should be hard. It should be messy handwriting, crossed out misspelt words. It should be the physical embodiment of you wrenching your ideas out. It should be challenging. And sometimes it takes finding a new, unblemished notebook to remind you of that, and all the possibilities that a blank page holds.

Overall, I highly recommend discovering a pristine notebook and jotting something down in it. Even if you forget about it for a year or more, it only makes its rediscovery more rich for future you. For a similar experience, buy or steal a new notebook. (don’t steal)

A notebook. What will you write in it? NB. Do not attempt to write in this notebook, it is merely an image of a notebook.

 

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