Ant Cule Reviews... Being Alive

An Extremely Subjective View of Being A Human

Category: Recommended

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… Driving A Van

This week has been a week of firsts. Not least because this week I drove a van for the very first time.

On Sunday I had to drive (in a van) from Greenwich to Leyton, and then around the East of London, and back to Greenwich from where, on Monday morning, I had to drive this van to Balham and back. This was all in aid of the very first London airing of Drawn In, by Speechless Theatre Company – that which I set up with a great friend. Thanks to everyone who came to that by the way (I know some of you regular readers were there!!!!!!).

I’ll be the first to admit it; I was bloody scared of driving a van. I’m used to driving a Mini. Van’s may be many things, but mini they are not. Unless you count minivans? But I was not to drive a minivan. No no, I was to drive one of these.

A big ol’ Ford Transit van, rented from Hertz.

Glorious. Powerful. Deadly. With a functional yet elegant design, and plenty of room out back. And all for a perfectly reasonable price, as far as I could tell. My experience in van pricing isn’t especially large.

Honestly, I was so scared that my co-founder came down to Greenwich to do the trip up to Leyton with me. Vans are big. I am small. Vans are strong. I am weak. Vans are vehicles. I am human. There are many differences between me and a van, and differences are scary.

But let me tell you, buddy – once I got used to the clutch control required (it feels very crude), and the having no rear-view mirror (liberating, as you no longer have to panic about looking behind you to see a trail of destruction) – it was hella cool. In a van you feel like the king of the road.

The seats are much higher up than in a normal car, giving you elevation and a sense of superiority over other vehicles in the road. The windscreen is really big, giving you a panoramic view of your enemies. The engine growls pleasingly, like a lion’s roar. And you drive along just knowing you can fit a shit-load of stuff in behind you, and still be the king of the road.

Of course, despite these feelings, I still drove incredibly cautiously, and kept to the speed limits at all junctures. I can see the temptation to drive like a complete idiot when in a van – you feel absolutely invincible – but I think it’s important to not drive like a complete idiot when you’re in a vehicle of any kind. You might be invincible, but not everyone is! You gotta take other peoples’ safety into the equation! Okay guys??!!

Overall I recommend driving a van for the pure visceral thrill of being the king of the road. For a similar experience, you could wear a crown and declare yourself king of all roads.

Ant Cule Reviews… Reviewing on the Go

Hi, Ant here. I wrote this on the tube yesterday, and have only just managed to publish it. Sorry for missing Monday. You can read me berating myself for such things here.

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I’m writing this on the tube. What a world we live in. I’m hurtling along in a metal tube underneath London, with dozens of people I’ll never see again, tapping words into a magic screen that changes at the touch of a button and the swipe of a finger.

The future is magic.
I’m on my way to the second night of Drawn In – a play that I made with a friend, through the theatre company we founded; Speechless. It’s a play with no words. That’s what we do. Speechless Theatre. Get it? It’s on until Thursday, at Theatre N16 in Balham. So if you read this on the 16th, 17th, or 18th of February 2016, then come on down. Tickets are only a tenner, which is pretty good value I think.
Is this review a hollow shell for promoting my own play? Partly. But the play has come up because it’s on my mind a lot. I’m really proud of it, and proud of what we’ve built so far, and are building with Speechless. It’s shown me how, with a little determination and passion and good people around you, you can do anything you want to. I mean, okay, that’s not strictly true. But you can put your energy and passion into something you want to do, and it works! It’s not something you should be scared of.
I was scared for a long time. I still am. But I’m scared and doing what I want to do, rather than scared and not. I know which one I’d rather.
Overall, I recommend reviewing on the go. It lets you think whilst you’re on the tube, or the train, or whatever your preferred mode of transport – and public transport isn’t really a place conducive to thinking. It’s liberating to be able to do so, even for a short while, before putting your headphones on and disappearing back into the crowd.

Ant Cule Reviews… Missing A Self-Imposed Deadline

Today is Saturday. I’m supposed to be following a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule on these posts.

Monday: tick.

Wednesday: tick.

Friday: NOTHING.

It haunted me yesterday. It would just creep in, whilst I was out for dinner (at a delicious Ethiopian-food place), tap me on the shoulder and remind me – “You can’t relax, because you have this to feel guilty about.”

And yet, this has got me thinking. We all miss deadlines, even just once in a while. And it’s fine. It’s annoying but it’s fine. And this is a self-imposed deadline. No-one’s paying me for this. No-one’s demanding I write three posts a week. No-one other than myself.

I often bind myself up in knots about missing a self-imposed deadline, I take it as a reflection on my inability to do anything well or efficiently. I take it as a mark of my inherent tendency towards laziness, towards slapdashery. I resent myself for my strict deadlines, and I resent myself for not meeting them.

But none of that is actually useful. None of that helps me write more, or makes me any more productive. It just makes me seethe at myself. It creates negative energy, and makes me tense. And I don’t want to be tense, I hate feeling tense.

So I’ve decided to forgive myself for missing my self-imposed deadline, and while I will try and meet it in the future, I’ll try not to beat myself up if I don’t. After all, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Overall, I recommend missing a self-imposed deadline once in a while, as it can give you a chance to reflect on what you value, and what you think of yourself. And a spot of self-reflection can be an important thing.

Ant Cule Reviews… Sitting in a Coffee Shop

Hi there, Ant here, just apologising for the lateness of this. Normally I post Monday – Wednesday – Friday, as you well know. However, I was out all day yesterday so couldn’t publish it. I promise, though, that I wrote this yesterday, whilst sitting in a coffee shop. Thanks bye!

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I’m sitting in the corner of a well known coffee chain, watching and listening to what’s going on. There are wooden, or at least wood-effect, seats at matching tables. The tables are small and round.

A man with a goatee and a bald man with a stubble-beard shake hands. I don’t know if they’ve just concluded a business deal or a meeting, or if they’re just good friends. The man with the goatee has walked out, and the bald man with the beard is now wearing headphones.

A man and a woman sit at a table by the toilet door reading something off their phones and noting it on paper. A marriage of the modern and the timeless, bound by two silent parties across a table strewn with white paper cups. He is wearing a baseball cap indoors. I don’t mind that.

Two Asian men sit at right angles to them, chatting and relaxed. Any silences between them are comfortable and well-worn. I can’t hear what they’re saying over the jazz coming from the speaker in the corner.

I know I shouldn’t come to this coffee-chain, and I know I should support independent coffee shops, but I have a soft spot for this place. It was where I first defined myself as a coffee drinker. In my teenage years, I got impossibly sweet and milky coffee from here. Gradually I grew to like the underlying taste of the coffee more and more. This place was my gateway into actually enjoying coffee for the taste and experience of coffee. I don’t think that’s to be knocked. I know they don’t pay their taxes, and I know that they should. But I’m a sucker for a nostalgia trip.

There’s an ever-changing cast of characters rotating on and off the empty tables around me. There’s an endless stream of people wandering in and out of the toilets. Certainly not all life is here. In fact, only a very thin sliver of life is here. Yet, I can’t help but feel like wherever some life is present, then in some way all life is present. All life is held in some life. In the specific things they do, and the specific ways they hold themselves, and interact with where they are, and with each other. Connected by the space we share, and separated by social spheres we inhabit.

Overall, I recommend just sitting and watching people in a coffee shop to feel that stomach churning excitement that all of these people will never again be in the same space at the same time, and that that’s what makes life so magical.

Erika Cule Reviews… Having A Birthday

Hi it’s Ant here at the top of this post. This is also a new ‘innovation’ whereby a guest reviewer comes in and reviews something from their life. Wednesdays shall henceforth be called ‘innovation Wednesdays’. This is a guest review by Erika Cule, whose regular blog is Blogging Beyond.

Having a Birthday, eh? An odd subject to review. Everybody Has a Birthday, whether Having one is Recommended or Not.

Or do they? If someone’s date of birth is not known, do they still Have a Birthday? What about the Queen, who reportedly has two? Or twins, who share a birthday? Does that mean they only have half a birthday each? 

I considered reviewing “Celebrating a Birthday”. However, Celebrating a Birthday is not a universal human experience. One can come up with all sorts of reasons why someone’s birthday might never be celebrated. I myself am in the fortunate position of having had only had one or two birthdays that were not celebrated. Incidentally, having a birthday that is not celebrated is Not Recommended, but having a birthday that is not celebrated is different to Celebrating a Birthday, and neither of those are the subject of this review.

Anyhow, I recently Had a Birthday, well, within the last year at least (haha), and it led me to reflect on birthdays, and what it means to have one. I have had a large enough number of birthdays (no, I’m not going to tell you how many) to be in a position to look at them in the collective, and overall, I conclude that having a birthday is recommended, at least by me.

A Birthday can be inspiration for contemplation.

Birthdays are about connecting. Because my Date of Birth is special to me, it leads me to connect with a handful of people who share my Date of Birth, whose presence, let alone birthday, I wouldn’t otherwise routinely think of. There’s the ritual of birthday cards, which I used to dismiss, but as I got older I saw birthday cards as less of a hassle (dammit! their birthday was two days ago and I still haven’t found a stamp!) and more of an opportunity, to tell someone that you care about them, that their special day is more special than a Facebook message to you, too.

Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate. My birthday is in mid-winter, at a time many people view as gloomy and dominated by post-Christmas restraint and Blue Mondays

A Birthday can be an excuse for cheer in an otherwise gloomy season.

I am there with a cheerful expression, to remind them that despite the greyness of the sky there can be colour in our moods as we light candles and share a special meal. Big Birthdays can be marked with Big Celebrations, and birthdays that you’d prefer to observe only with a passing nod can be noted in that fashion. You are even free to ignore your birthday entirely, should you so choose, although doing so does not halt the passing of time. But for an excuse to spend time with friends and loved ones you can’t beat a birthday. If you’re not having one, someone else will be.

I am fond of birthdays, of anniversaries and dates, and milestones and navel-gazing and contemplating of the nature of time. But more than that, I believe that our relationships with others are what makes us human, so I Recommend Having a Birthday to you and to your loved ones, not because of the presents, cards, and candles nor the anxiety that increasing each year as your birthday approaches and you remember that you are Getting Old. I Recommend Having a Birthday as an opportunity to connect with others, to remember that we are All In This Together, and to cheer each other up along the way. 

Photo credits: S. S. H. / Erika Cule / S. S. H.

Ant Cule Reviews… Getting A Reading Nook

This weekend saw the addition of a few of attractive new members of the household.

A couple of lovely red armchairs arrived – hand-me-downs really, from my parents. No, I don’t think it’s weird to describe armchairs as ‘attractive’, why do you ask?

They will provide lovely seats for when we have guests, and also for when we wish to sit down.

But I’m not here simply to gloat about now being able to sit down to eat my dinner. No, no. I’m here to gloat about other things as well.

You see, I’m very excited about where we’ve positioned one of the chairs. What do you mean you wouldn’t really consider armchairs ‘new members of the household’?

Previously I might have had to stand to peruse our bookshelf. But now:

One of the chairs, situated by the book shelf, thus becoming a reading 'nook'

One of the chairs, situated by the book shelf, thus becoming a reading ‘nook’

I can sit! I can sit and look at books!

I love to have a chair to sit in and have a book on my lap whilst I idly flick through my twitter feed. And now I have one right next to a bookshelf! I’m going to look very distinguished in my attractive new member of the household.

Overall I would recommend getting a reading nook by putting a chair next to a bookshelf. For a similar effect, drag a bookshelf with you wherever you go for a portable, permanent reading nook wherever you sit down!

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.

Ant Cule Reviews… Staring Out of the Window

Morning. Kettle boiling. Head still bleary with sleep. I stare out of the window.

It’s one of those kind of unfocussed stares, where I’m simultaneously taking in the cars rushing by and I’m inside my head thinking “My god I wish I was still in bed.”

Where I live the view is a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of cars and people. I can see a bridge over a road, basically.

The traffic isn’t too bad this morning. Yet still I wonder how so many people have already woken up and got behind the wheel of a two tonne death machine. Do they feel as foggy as I do? And these people crossing the bridge over the traffic. On their way to the train station. On their way to work. What are they thinking of?

People zooming underneath other people rushing as quickly as their feet will carry them – everyone on the way to somewhere.

Every person in this scene has a headful of thoughts.

Every car here has at least one person in it. How are there this many people in this city?

On the bridge a man in a black coat overtakes a woman pushing a pram. Is it cold out there?

Three traffic cones sit at the far side of the dual carriageway, and make me think of Toy Story 2. Just waiting for their chance to cross.

The author stares out of the window (a reconstruction of the events)

The author stares out of the window (reconstruction of the events)

The kettle clicks off the boil and I come back to the room. Make the tea. Head still bleary.

Overall, I would recommend staring out of the window of a morning and watching the world go by for a pensive start to the day. For a similar effect hide around a corner and spy on people going about their everyday business.