Ant Cule Reviews... Being Alive

An Extremely Subjective View of Being A Human

Category: Cleaning

Ant Cule Reviews… Washing Your Hands

And Also Seeing Someone Else Not Wash Theirs.

Everybody poops. You. Me. Your mum. My mum (sorry mum!). Everybody pees. Including our parents. It’s only natural. But what’s not natural is not then washing your hands.

And yet, the question pops in my head, is it natural to wash your hands after making your toilet? For that matter is it natural to wipe your bum? Did our ancestors on the savannah make sure they did their business near a nice big non-toxic leaf? Or did they walk around wafting poopstink wherever they roamed?

Did all these incarnations of humans wipe their butts? (image from here: http://www.learner.org/courses/biology/images/archive/fullsize/1678_fs.jpg)

Did all these incarnations of humans wipe their butts? (image from here: http://www.learner.org/courses/biology/images/archive/fullsize/1678_fs.jpg)

A brief internet search shows me that our cave-dwelling ancestors must have just dropped their bits in the cave, before eventually designating one area for pooping. As the nature of humans is to streamline processes more, so pooping must have become more centralised. In the agricultural revolution there may have been designated poop-zones. Kind of like festival portaloos, but less awful. Then as farms grew to cities so we developed sewers. And as our effluence mingled together so bacteria grew, thus illness was tracked back to open sewers and piles of poop. Thus poop was seen as evil. And as medicine advanced, and with the rise of antibacterials, so came post-toilet hygiene.

Wow, that was a weird tangent. A very brief history of pooping. Sorry about that.

I saw someone make the valid point that we actually use potential drinking water to hurry our little turds on their merry way to the sewer. That’s crazy. I blame the Victorians. I’d be happy just burying my little leavings in the back garden. Is that why they call it soiling yourself?

Where was I? Oh yes, although I have all these questions about society’s fecal etiquette, I actually enjoy washing my hands. Warm water and soap on a cold day is a sweet remedy. To what, I don’t know, but it’s definitely a remedy. It’s like having a little bath in the middle of the day. A little bath just for your hands. And I don’t need to tell you how much I love a bath, do I? I do? Well, read it here.

What I can’t ABIDE is weeing next to someone then finishing at more or less the same time, walking towards the sinks, and then, as I go the sinks to wash my hands, the other weeer (pronounced ‘oui-er’) walks straight out of the public toilethouse. Like, whaaaaaat?! You’re going to go and handle apples with unwashed hands? You’re going to go and stroke soft looking furnishings after touching your junk? Or do you have some kind of prehensile penis, which means you only have to undo your zip to pass your body-water? WHICH IS IT?!

Overall, I highly recommend washing your hands after using the toilet in any form. Especially if you happen to pee next to me. If you don’t I will judge you. And it won’t be a nice judgement.

Ant Cule Reviews… Clearing Out Your Email Inbox

It’s no exaggeration to say I’m not a particularly organised person. Recently, though, I’ve been making a push to become more efficient. Or at least less messy. I don’t know quite what prompted this switch. Societal pressure? Podcasts with people bragging about workflows? Exasperation at my messy desk? All of these are questions. I don’t have the answers.

One of the first steps I took was to look at my email inbox. Not a pretty sight.

I thought I stayed on top of them. At least, I knew what to search if I ever wanted to pull up an old email. What’s a few unread emails anyway? But that bold 167 unread emails started to nag at me. And then I noticed how many emails I had in my inbox in total. Around the 2,000 mark. Not so bad maybe. But then I realised that the ‘in total’ Gmail gives you is just for the particular ‘tab’ your on. As it happens, they’ve also helpfully divided my emails into three other ‘tabs’: social; promotions; updates. I only recently discovered that each of those has around the same amount of emails. More in the case of ‘updates’. That had around 4,000. The amount of emails I had to tame increased fivefold, without me doing anything. Which was great.

I'll just keep chipping away until I reach the hallowed 'Inbox Zero'. (This snazzy picture is originally found here http://www.nycrgb.org/images/email%20icon.png)

I’ll just keep chipping away until I reach the hallowed ‘Inbox Zero’. (This snazzy picture is originally found here http://www.nycrgb.org/images/email%20icon.png)

My technique so far has been to start from the oldest and work backwards. I set up my email address in 2010. I have mostly deleted anything from pre-2015 unless it looks ultra important. It’s amazing how few emails look ultra important.

And then I discovered the ‘labels’ feature that gmail has. So I’ve been merrily labelling up my emails with all manner of things. Receipts, Writing, Personal, Personal/Family, Work. Now all I need to do is remember the fifteen and counting labels I use.

I’m now down to around 4,000 emails total. But I am on Inbox 54. Obviously that’s still a swollen bloated mass of an inbox, but you know, credit where it’s due.

And what of the act of doing all this? Of clearing out, organising, deleting, labelling? It’s liberating. I’m removing clutter. With every email deleted it’s a small amount of my past that I no longer have to carry around with me. And those bits that I keep, are bits of my past that I want to carry around with me. It has given me tremendous perspective on what is important to me. Emails from friends and family are important. Emails from hotel chains I stayed in once, six years ago, not so much.

Overall I highly recommend clearing out your email inbox. It is at once liberating and practical, and gives you real perspective on what is actually important to you. The next step is to unsubscribe to all those damned mailing lists I’m somehow on.

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… 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… 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… Biting Your Nails

I have a confession.

It may be a taboo but to hell with it, I’ll say it.

I bite my nails.

I know! I know! It’s a terrible habit, I know. But it’s so satisfying.

Let me explain why:

  • I save what you all spend on nail clippers, and am thus free to spend my extra cash on (for example) a cool neckerchief.
  • I never spend any cash on ‘having my nails done’ (due to shame at the raggedy state of my nails), and thus can spend that extra cash on exquisite neckwear.
  • My nails never get so long that I am mistaken for a witch.
  • It feels nice, even though I know it’s a disgusting habit.
  • I can kid myself that my gut is getting used to all sorts of germs that you non-nail-biters’ guts aren’t, so when the end of days comes, I will be able to eat gross things.

Really though, I can’t shake it. I just caught myself having a bite. It’s a deeply deeply ingrained habit.

I can remember sitting in the car and seeing my mum bite her nails, and thinking “Okay, that’s what grown ups do. I now bite my nails.” Never mind that soon after that she managed to shake the habit. I never have, even though sometimes I bite too far and that’s really painful. Oof. I wish I hadn’t said that. I feel like just mentioning “biting my nails” will put people off.

I'm really sorry. Here's a picture of my nails bitten to hell. I'm sorry.

I’m really sorry. Here’s a picture of my nails bitten to hell. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

Overall, I recommend biting your nails for the wonderful sensation, and the feeling of relief and comfort that comes from indulging a deep-rooted habit. On the other hand I don’t recommend it for the deep feeling of shame that comes when you realise you’re doing it.

Ant Cule Reviews… Doing The Washing Up

We all have those chores that make us roll our eyes like “Oh Jeez, puh-leeze, not that, anything but that.”

I’ll even bet for some of you it’s that great white elephant of the chore-world – yes, I’m talking about Doing The Washing Up.

But let me tell you something. I quite like doing the washing up. This will certainly come as a surprise to some people who live/have lived with me. But trust me gang, I’ve changed. A bit.

Previously I just wouldn’t do it, and someone else would (sorry Christian).

But now, when the mood takes me, I bloody love doing it.

My routine is as follows. Marigold on my left hand, washing up wand in my right, tap on very hot, go to town. Scrub away. Get all that grime off. I don’t – I have to clarify – literally go to town. That wouldn’t help get the washing up done at all.

I find it quite therapeutic really, standing there sloshing around in the water. Connected to the natural world somehow. Through this water. Jetted into my house by witchcraft through a metal pipe and out of a spout. There’s danger too. This water is really very hot.

But it gives me time to think. And reflect. And listen to podcasts.

And also there’s never that much really. It’s only the bits that can’t go in the dishwasher that I have to do nowadays.

All in all I recommend doing the washing up if you want a reflective and tactile experience like no other. Also recommended if you dislike living in total filth.