Chris’s (horrific!) new shoes dilemma

Good enough for Mick Dundee, good enough for me (note: not the cowboy boots I bought. I prefer the simplistic variety).

Ever since I was a young lad, I’ve always worn and loved just one pair of shoes; that pair took me everywhere, and together myself and them endured all kinds of fun and disastrous times together (like the time my sister Natalie fell through a wooden fence into a muddy algae-ridden pond when she was 8 and I was 6 — a disaster for her, but still truly hilarious if you are 6!). It’s not because my parents couldn’t afford to buy me more, or because I have a shoe-shop-related anxiety problem — I’ve never been in one long enough to develop one — it’s simply because whenever I have more than one pair of shoes on the go, things get complicated. My feet just don’t get along with more than one variety, is the problem. Years of wearing one pair have made them extremely picky, and the result of me challenging this theory is never a good thing.

Last year, though, I started to think that maybe I could do it…maybe I could be like everyone else on this planet and have more than one pair. It took me a while to fully commit to the idea, but once I was ready that was it. I confronted my mission with determination and a real desire to succeed.

It began with my socially confrontational cowboy boots — man boots with heels…boots which went against the grain of everything almost everyone I know stands for (not looking like a cowboy, not wearing heels). My theory was if I’m going to buy new shoes, why not be daring and outlandish with it? I’ll confess, owning genuine cowboy boots had been on my mind for a while, but actually putting down £200 to buy a pair took considerably more bravery than I’d ever imagined. Still, I knew I had it in me, and before long there I was, strutting down the street feeling extremely awkward and self-conscious. It took another couple of weeks to master turning corners while walking, but once I had the technique down there was absolutely no stopping me.

Little did I know that at this time of great endurance and agonising pain — wearing the cowboy boots in was a treacherous blend of blister-inducing-hell, combined with excruciating shooting pains up and down my shins, combined with feeling weird because of the heels, combined with wondering if I had made a terrible mistake — my parents were deviously concocting their very own plan to buy me yet more shoes…

I was presented with my 2nd pair of new shoes on the morning of my 31st birthday, and I didn’t say much when I opened the box and saw that they were shoes. I mean, your mum and dad buy you shoes you actually would have bought for yourself — it’s slightly eerie that they know your tastes so specifically, isn’t it? For me it is, at least. At first, my parents’ decision to buy me a pair of new shoes struck me as deeply unorthodox — crazy on a whole new level I didn’t dare think about. Disturbing, even. Then I smiled and realised that potentially, this was a life-changing moment, all because of them. The moment I became a real person. A person who could choose from a small number of shoes. What an eventful day! I was a grown-up!

But this feeling of elation and parental awe and wonder — lots of wonder, not to mention smugness — was not to last long. Because no sooner had I donned the comfy brown leather VANS and gone for my virgin walk around the village that I developed two of the most comically large and alarming blisters ever to grace Pink family feet. Something to do with the spongy soles and going from hard-sole cowboy boots to soft shoes, I was later to work out.

My problem with blisters is that I am a fighter. Some people sense the arrival of a blister and think now that really does hurt a lot, I’m going to slow down a hell of a lot and walk home carefully. That should help me avoid it. I have never been of this school of thought. Instead, my theory has always been to drive straight through the pain and teach it a lesson. Instead of slowing down, I speed up and walk aggressively, with the kind of purpose only men late for football games really understand. Where most people would fear the arrival of dreaded doom under their feet, I say Let the chips fall where they may, I say be imperfect! (Note: I don’t always say this. It varies depending on the last time I saw Fight Club.)

Months on and I’m still fighting my right to wear more than one pair of shoes, and wondering if going back to my one-pair-only rule is more favourable than a life-time of discomfort and pain. The blisters still appear every now and again, but that’s not going to stop me, i don’t think. I am a grown-up. Chris will fight on!

Exploding volcanoes and spelling badly!

An accurate side-profile illustration of one of my primary school teachers walking like a zombie. This one — complete with demon hands — was disgusted with anyone who couldn’t tell the time. This is her payback

As a child, it took me absolutely ages to learn how to tell the time on a clock with hands (or what I like to call an “analogue clock”. A phrase which hasn’t caught on, but really should have). Did this matter? Well yes it did actually, it mattered quite a lot, because when I was nine years-old digital clocks weren’t everywhere and analogue clocks were, the bloody things. If you couldn’t tell the time on one then life was completely miserable. For this reason, I told the time by being shouted at. When someone shouted at me I knew I was late and what the time had to be. It was a simple system that never failed to work.

Not being any good at telling the time wasn’t such a big thing though, because at the age of eight or nine I started to produce paintings that were annoyingly good for a child of my age (looking back they don’t seem all that special now, but I’m not going to go into that. I don’t want to ruin the mystique). The best part was that they were also better than most of the teachers could do – something which was brilliant ammunition when you were utterly useless with all the other subjects. Painting was the one thing I could do, so I embraced it. Things took a particularly bad turn, however, when I entered an art competition at the end of one year.

I had chosen to do a painting of a farmyard. Let’s be honest, for most of the population, when you’re seven or eight, you don’t give a shit about the details, you just want to paint whatever comes into your mind at that one particular moment. Me, on the other hand, I loved the details. I spent a good few hours drawing the chickens and the pigs, and spent a similar number of hours doing the actual painting.

But here’s the thing…when I entered the painting into the competition, there was that very distinct feeling of having trodden in dog muck and being the odd one out in a very big way. Dog muck of the bright orange, especially foul-smelling variety, no less. A rumour had started going about, you see: I hadn’t painted the chickens and the pigs…my parents or some other devious accomplice adult had. Something which amused my parents, seeing as they’d always been hopeless at art. If I was them I’d have taken the accolade, but there you go, we are all different.

Conveying how hopeless they were to the Headmaster didn’t help. The school authorities — a complex mix of bearded and non-bearded evil individuals who seemed strangely genderless to my young self — were convinced that the painting was a fraud and that was that, I was outlawed from collecting a prize (there was no prize, I later found out, but it still cut me deeply). It seemed my non-existent art career was to remain that way, until a stroke of luck fell upon me…I was asked to paint a teacher’s portrait, which would be given to him as a leaving present! (I still have no idea who was responsible for setting my career back on track.)

As you can imagine I was thrilled. My reputation restored, things were looking up. Yes!

The problem is, ever since that day, and don’t laugh, and don’t think I’m being arrogant please, I have been plagued with the curse of being half decent at creative things. I call it a curse because a) it’s hardly brilliant for earning money and b) it seems to be a lot more common to be crap at drawing and painting than it does to be skilled. This means that people often say to me “Oh Chris, I wish I could paint like you or write like you, but alas I am stuck with my between 35 and 75 grand per-year boring job — I’d really much rather be creative”. What they forget – or what possibly doesn’t always cross their mind – is that they likely possess many more skills than I when it comes to many things in life which are favourable. Things which make everyday life a hell of a lot easier, for that matter.

Here are a few things which I find exceedingly difficult (mainly because of my Dyscalculia – the numerical equivalent of Dyslexia):

1) Reading maps. Just ask anyone who has ever been in a car with me. I am infuriating on so many levels. It really is quite hard to fathom.

2) Doing directions. Both giving them and following them. I forget the number of people who have fallen under my spacially-challenged sword after winding down their window. Actually, come to think of it, when I walk down the street in a place I don’t know, I usually have to keep checking behind me so I see the street in the way I will later when I make the return journey. If I fail to do this I will often not believe it is the same street. This surely gives me the shifty appearance of someone who is fearing for their life.

3) Still reading analogue clocks. Sometimes. I can’t even blame it on the drink as I can no longer drink.

4) Still doing any form of multiplication. The beauty of Dyscalculia is that you don’t ever improve at Maths. Thus, there is little point attempting to learn to do multiplication. It’s a thing of wonder in many ways. If I was just simply crap at Maths then I might be compelled to keep trying to get better.

Another thing is that some people seem to more and more fear writing emails to me – I know this because several people have told me they feel they need to try hard when doing so; harder than when they write to people who don’t do much work with words. You can see it in their writing…the concentration on the words, all formed much more neatly and with more thought than they might usually put into it. And to this I say: “please make spelling mistakes and please don’t worry about writing well or properly or neatly. I really don’t care. In fact I like it. I look forward to seeing typos. All I do is spend every day writing neatly and as well as I can. I want to see the writing of normal everyday people so please let me have it!”

Note: I should say that I have many friends who are creative and who can write really well. And can also do Maths. And who hold down good jobs too. And who can read analogue clocks well — even those evil ones which fashionably don’t have numbers on them. You can definitely say I am jealous of them…

Chris’s day at the cinema and movie review of Chronicle (12A): I really couldn’t give a monkey’s if it gets 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally I hated almost every second of it, so there

The Narnia lion — proud to be in a film which uses the word ‘Chronicle’ in a good way

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you will know that I rarely do movie or music reviews. There is a good reason for this – it’s because of my brother Matthew and his flat-mates. Some time ago, I made the mistake – the very severe mistake, it soon transpired – of telling them all about how I’d walked into HMV a few days before and found myself holding in my hands and subsequently buying a DVD box-set. Not just any DVD box-set but The Descent and The Descent 2 in one affordable package that was just crying out to be bought (the conversation then continued, where I revealed, foolishly, that I had also once bought the Jaws DVD box-set, which contained Jaws 2, 3 and 4 but no original Jaws. A very bad move on my part which frequently returns to haunt me, even though Jaws is on IT4 practically every single week right now). It was then that they all pounced upon me at once, mocking me for being such a stupid fool, and not listening to my very valid reasons for buying the box-set (I loved The Descent, so the sequel was worth taking a chance on). Everyone knows The Descent 2 is bloody awful and a total waste of money, was the general consensus of the day. And from that day on I vowed never to do a movie or music review again (which wasn’t difficult to be honest, as by then I’d been on a four-year or so long roll of doing exactly that), just in case they might read it and make it their mission to harass me about it.

Now I am being a big brave boy and breaking that silence. Join me as I attack the latest Hollywood moc-documentary “masterpiece,” entitled Chronicle. Come on people, if you hate overly enthusiastic CGI and irritating, stereotypical American college life as depicted on the big screen, let us together rip it limb from limb!

I’ve always been one to go against the grain, so I’m not going to pretend I’m not enjoying this. I’m not just saying it either, now I shall prove it. A fine example of this proof can be found in my childhood. Firstly, when I was 9 I would only spread St. Ivel Gold margarine on my bread (which meant Mum had to buy this every week as well as the “normal” margarine), and secondly, when I was at secondary school I went against the grain by never buying chips in the canteen, even though not buying them broadcasted to the masses that you had no intention of becoming one of the crowd. That’s right, everyone bought chips, and there I was not buying them. Sometimes, though, I liked to mix it up. So this would often mean that on Tuesday’s I wouldn’t buy chips and on Thursdays I wouldn’t buy, say, spicy potato wedges (I would vary the days of course, but that wasn’t important, it was more the moral that counted). All this low-key anarchy went under the radar of those outside my immediate posse, of course – we all agreed we were in a posse, not a gang – but we didn’t care; that’s what it’s like when you blaze a trail against all the odds. The point was that we were standing up for what was right and un-cool. Also, most days I had a packed lunch, so buying additional potato-based snacks wasn’t really necessary. As you can see I was very much the lady magnet back then.

Going into this showing of Chronicle, I had that unsettling and slightly doomed feeling going on – that classic timeless one that says “what I am about to experience is both not going to satisfy me, and make me wish I hadn’t spent £8.95”. However, this feeling was quickly quashed. Before handing over my ticket I’d been to Burger King and purchased £6.95s worth of XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger meal, which was actually really good. Good or not, the burger was obviously abysmal quality. I’d already wasted that much, so why not continue with the risk of spending more?

I’m not silly, of course. After the quagmire of controversy that was the DVD box-sets debacle I had learnt one important lesson: always get the opinion of someone with worthy film knowledge before going to buy a DVD box-set or pay for a cinema ticket. In this case, my brother Maff – official name Matthew – had given me the go-ahead to see Chronicle. It wasn’t much, just a sentence – “I’ve heard it’s good” – but it was enough to inspire me with confidence. Maff never says a film is good unless he is certain, and anyone who knows my brother will tell you that he has a generally impeccable taste when it comes to film and cinema. I did say generally.

Sitting down and getting comfortable, I obviously wasn’t comfortable – I am 6 feet of man and this always means sitting sideways with my legs spread out, which probably gives me the appearance of a man who is either a) settling down to pleasure himself or b) come into the cinema to have a good sleep rather than watch the film – but I was most definitely ready. I was mildly interested about what was about to happen. You might say I was off my guard.

And this was just the problem, because it was now that a trailer for new, bloody awful romantic comedy This Means War infected the big screen. The main problem being that as I watched the trailer, I found myself about to have a panic attack, as it very much seemed like this was not a trailer but actually the entire film. For five minutes or so – but what felt like half an hour – the ten or so people around me who were either freelance or had jobs that allowed them the privilege of sitting in the cinema at 5pm in the afternoon, were subjected to cinema at its most unappealing, and likely left panicking, like me, if they had wandered into the wrong screen. Reese Witherspoon made the trailer just about sit-through-able, prancing about with little on to R ‘n’ B, but the premise of the movie – two secret agents go to war against each other in pursuit of their mutual love affection – shone out like a neon turd in a very dark, grim swimming-pool. If you haven’t seen the trailers for this hideous excuse of a film yet, please see one, if only for protection. That way, if you ever accidentally turn the channel over in five years time and find yourself watching this tripe, you will know it immediately and be able to take evasive action. Thanks to my sage advice, you will save yourself lots of time. Time which I will not get back. Let’s move on.

Chronicle should be amazing, and the fact that it isn’t makes me want to smash things up (second to smashing the ticket machine up so I can retrieve that wasted £8.95). It should be fantastic. With a fairly original concept – college teens discover a source of otherworldly power deep within the ground – and a budget that most countries badly afflicted with AIDS are absolutely crying out for, it’s got all the ingredients for a quality film. There are many reasons it is not fantastic or amazing, but I will begin with the first one: it’s just too much.

Just too much isn’t always bad. For example, there’s a pub in our village – can’t tell you which as I don’t want to ruin this best-kept secret – that sells fish and chips to takeaway for just 5 pounds! Providing you don’t get the stingy chef – I still haven’t worked out how to completely avoid the days he is working – you are basically guaranteed an impressive meal of too-much-food. Either there are two pieces of fish and loads of chips, or just a massive piece of fish that will dwarf most standard dinner plates. Watching Chronicle, then, is a bit like ordering a massive piece of fish and then discovering that on the way to putting it in the box, the chef must have dropped it in loads of crushed-up Ecstasy or other well-known hallucinogen (Class A drugs obviously have no business being in a kitchen, but if you’ve ever worked in a really stressful one then you could almost forgive a chef for this mistake, I think).

Explosions. Buses flying through the air. Angry teenagers. A feeble American teenager who goes on a journey where he becomes precisely what you knew he would all along (I won’t tell you what, at the slim risk that after reading this ‘review’ you miraculously decide to go and see the film). Chronicle has all this and more, including no good explanation about how any of this came to be, and a slew of comic moments which attempt to distract the viewer from the slew of enormous plot-holes. Worst of all, though, it leaves the possibility of a sequel ringing in your ears within the first 30 minutes.

What I find impressive, reading this post through, is that I have got this far without even remotely telling you the basic plot. If an editor-type had me by the leash, I’d have received a smack on the bum for being so vague, but seeing as this is my blog I can get away with that kind of thing. Trust me, when you spend all your time dealing with people who constantly want you to change your work to suit their taste, you’d take every chance you get as well.

For the sake of it though, here’s the basic premise: 3 college guys who can’t help mentioning Schopenhauer and Jung in daily conversation – dialogue which has nothing to do with the film’s so-called clever message, of course… – enter a hole in the ground and find a strange glowing…thing. You don’t see much of it, other than getting the distinct impression that whatever it is is organic and alive and potentially dangerous. Events rapidly progress after this, and via the progressively more tedious moc-documentary style film-making technique which is quickly running out of original options, we get to witness the 3 guys — who I can’t be bothered to describe here — growing ever-stronger in their powers. These powers take the form of picking stuff up and chucking it about, basically, and all that kind of stuff. All of this means that watching Chronicle is a bit like watching two old filthy-rich men talk about the olden days: being them, following a life-time of experiences and outrageous fun, would no doubt be a brilliant time. But watching them – did I mention one of them is wearing shorts and keeps…falling out? – gets quickly tiresome.

If there’s one thing Chronicle does get right it’s the special effects and mind-blowing visuals. If you’re pissed-off with life and wondering what it would be like to pick up your boss’s car and throw it through several skyscrapers, then surround your living-room with plasma TVs and leave Chronicle on repeat. Otherwise, do yourself a favour and go and see The Grey with Liam Neeson. Maff says it is good. But then…