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Thursday, 26 December 2013

Chapter 22 - A story about courage (and Christmas ramblings)

I want to start the penultimate chapter of 10 resolutions by telling you about one of the funniest things that I've seen in recent years, and mainly because of the urban justice of it.
At a supermarket (that will remain nameless) in Gloucester last week there was a group of people collecting for Help the Heroes. One of these people was probably close to my age and clearly had part of his face and leg damaged in service (confirmed by a conversation later). He was also in uniform and in a wheelchair. People walked passed and put money in their buckets (as I did when I walked into the store) - but 20 minutes later I came out to see something completely vile. 
A group of 6 or 7 older teenagers (15-18 year olds at a guess) had assembled in a group close to the collectors and they were all laughing at the serviceman. He ignored them and carried on collecting and speaking to people that walked past. As the groups laughing and insults continued to get louder though an older man with a walking stick started walking towards the group of teenagers. Initially, the group thought nothing of the older man coming towards them but as he got closer, a member of the group started focusing his attention on the man (as it was clear he was coming over to speak to them). As the man arrived to speak to the teenagers, the one who had been mocking him shouted out (in an accent that can only be described as west-country gone wrong chavette)

“What dya fink you is doing mate? Where is your f*****g zimma frame”

And then, in a moment of sheer courage and priceless timing it happened…..The older man stood as straight as he could and in one swift motion and with all of his strength he swung his walking stick straight into the teenagers groin. As the teenager keeled over in pain, the rest of the group fell silent and almost instantly stood back. Then the older man bent over and said something to the teenager that the few people around couldn’t hear (but the one obvious word that I could pick out was ‘respect).

And with that – the group of teenagers started laughing at the mouthy teenager and Im sure that Im not the only one that wanted to run over and high-five the older man. I also wish that I had the courage of the older man to do what he did. To go and speak to the teenagers – and its really easy to look at something like that in hindsight, to say, “yeah, if it happened again….” (You know what I mean). But there isn't much in me that is convinced that the same kind of feelings wouldn't flood over me again.
Courage to be able to take a step like that is something I really need to pray for. If it was just a couple of them or an individual then I wouldn't have a problem – but then again I could do that in my strength. I need to have courage to act in faith. And with that (somewhat overly heavy) opening – lets move on shall we……

In case you hadn't heard, its Christmas time – and the even more crazy thing about that little reveal is that it is nearly a year since 10 Resolutions began. But chapter 23 will be the sentimental one with revelations and stuff – this chapter will mainly be focused on the fact that I am now old and my thoughts / ramblings about the festive period. To keep things in a vague kind of logical order though, Im going to flip the normal order of a chapter around and lead up to some festive questions / rambles at the end rather than starting with them. So what has been happening since chapter 21? And who have I met along the way?

Parties Parties Parties (and a trip to the hospital)
As I’ve probably mentioned once or twice (joke) – I’ve been hurtling towards 30 for the best part of a year - and at the end of November (in a joint party with Dan) I finally crossed over into brand new territory and into a new decade of life. Youll be pleased to know that it doesnt feel much different (yet) from my 20s - however I do now have a somewhat ridiculous amount of grey hair developing. Thankfully though that doesnt bother me (weve just got a problem if I start balding!). But anyway, my birthday was the first of four parties that Ive attended in the last few weeks……..

The Birthday Bash
The Day After (Yes...that is a onesie)
Dan and I had been planning our birthday for months and it went off without a hitch (so thank you to everyone that helped out). The room looked beautiful, the bar was cheap and I felt completely blessed and honoured to have so many people from so many different moments in my life come along. I even lost track of the amount of times on the night that I felt completely overwhelmed with joy to see different people (some of whom I hadnt seen in ages). If you made an effort to come up for the night – then thank you - as it meant the absolute world to Dan and I – and it was an evening that we will never forget.

Kraig Dixon
Kraig is someone that I met through someone else (I've now pretty much lost touch with the someone else) – but Kraig has now been part of my life for somewhere close to 15 years – and no one person has made me laugh as much along the way as Kraig either through his actions or his words. He never takes himself too seriously (despite supporting Chel$ki) and beneath the outward projection of Kraig lies at his heart a man who simply cares for those he loves. And what an amazing thing to have at your core that is. Kraig however, is not particularly good in the mornings ESPECIALLY on stag dos – as was evident on Dans Stag-do last year….

Phil to Kraig (After having spent the majority of the day playing paintball which Kraig missed due to our previous heavy night):
“Kraig, have you been in bed all day”?
Kraig then replies:
No Phil, Ive only been in bed until this point”
It was an absolutely priceless moment.
If you are feeling down, Kraig will cheer you up and he has a completely infectious personality. He is one of my favourite people to spend time with – I just wish that he didn’t live so far away!

Craig Simmons
I met Craig (along with loads of other people) as part of the Faction about 10 years ago now and he has now become one of my closest friends. I dont see him very often (as he is a “little bit” of a jet-setter with his job) but when I do we always have loads of fun - and perhaps most importantly I feel that I can open up to him. He makes me smile despite him being a grumpy old man (in his late 20s) and I always know that if I need him hell be there for me. Hes a great friend and I am enormously proud of the man that he has become.

Ally Winter
Ive known Ally for pretty much exactly the same amount of time that Ive known Cass (and thats because they used to work together) and from the first moment we got on really well. Ally loves to laugh (including at herself) and she is able just to pick out really funny things in the world. Aside from that though – Ally is one of the most supportive people Ive ever met and I can think of so many times when she has been there for Cass (and me) in recent years (including being a bridesmaid). She always makes an effort for her friends and I always look forward to seeing her when she is around. Ally is completely larger than life and if I described her in one word it would be FUN. Simply put – Ally is a legend.

Kirsties Birthday
Kirsties birthday was the Friday after my Birthday and the evening started with a trip to my favourite pub in Gloucester - before ending up in the best night place in the shire (CafĂ© Rene)…….And as back in chapter 17 I said that I'd introduce you to some more of my colleagues and friends from work (who I actually spend a fair bit of time with outside work as well) - spread across this chapter seems to be a good time....

Kirstie Chidlow
Ive worked with Kirstie now for about 7 years and I have watched her grow into an amazing person. She is funny, smart, friendly, trustworthy and probably in loads of ways knows me better than I know myself. She is also one of those people that just when you think you have her figured out youll see a completely different side of her or discover something about her that is completely fresh and adds to her overall jigsaw. I love spending time with Kirstie and actually find her really refreshing (even though I havent quite figured out her fondness for drinking JD). 

Claire Barsellotti 
Im lucky enough to know loads of compassionate people and Claire is without question one of them. She is also one of those amazing people that just manages to make people smile wherever she goes and she can light up a room with her personality. Shes bubbly and bouncy yet completely sincere and empathetic whilst possessing real grace. Claire has recently come back to work in our office and I honestly didnt realise how much I missed having her around. 

The trip to the hospital.....
The Monday after Kirstie's birthday I ended up in London hanging out with Simon for the evening and having a few beers (whilst he mocked me for not drinking ale) - but the aim of hanging around Big Smoke for the night was so that I could go and see my friend Lu in Charing Cross hospital the next day......
Lu Leach
Lu (wife to Terry) is very simply one of the strongest people that I have ever met. Since Ive known her, I have lost track of the number of times that she has been in hospital due to her condition but she has never given up hope and she is a true inspiration to me and so many others around her. She is blunt (something I love about her) and will put me in my place if Im being out of line. But on the flip side of that she is also amazingly caring and has rescued me in so many ways more times than I care to imagine. Shes a pillar of strength and hope combined with a beautiful heart – and she is quite simply amazing.

Windsor Antics
The following Saturday was Lucy's birthday night out in Windsor. Despite living near Windsor growing up, I'd never been there for a drink before (and after experiencing the drinks was fairly evident as to why!) Obviously I found a bargain though....and that bargain happened to be buckets of sharing cocktails for a tenner which were LUSH (so nice in fact that I didn't share.....) It was also great to catch up with Lewis, Chris, Phil, Rach, Sophia and Bradley again on the night....ooohhh and congratulations to Lewis and Lucy on since becoming engaged (a decision that I should point out was NOT made under the influence that night.....)

Christmas Party Time
Friday 13th was my work Christmas party which saw us invading other Christmas parties and initial 'fury' over no wine being on the tables. With that part being over though...a massive contingent of us descended into Gloucester City Centre for what was my 4th great party night in as many weeks. No stories to tell here - just a fantastic night (and I got in about 5am....AGAIN)

Jamie Wilkins
I met Jamie a few years ago in a pub whilst watching the football (as a side note - I wonder how many friendships have been formed in Blighty in that very same way). Jamie was friends with someone I was working with at the time (who was there as well) and then as the year passed on I saw him quite a bit at different matches in the pub and other social things. I eventually lost touch with the person that I met Jamie through - but that summer Jamie started working in the same office as me and we started spending more time together.
He is an avid (yet normally realistic) Liverpool fan (who actually knows about football), hes not afraid to speak his mind (or to stand up for those around him), he is always looking to have fun (including at his own expense) and he has absolutely no understanding of those that are awake and bouncy in the mornings (as he is not). And I wouldnt have him any other way because as sad as it may well sound – Ive really loved getting to know Jamie over the last few years (despite his occasional Liverpool delusions) and I feel really blessed to be able to call him my friend. 

Howie Jackson
DJ Howie “Action” Jackson is probably the person who knows more people than anyone else I have ever met and if you walk into a pub with him he WILL know someone (and quite often the person that you least expect). He will make an effort to get on with anyone and everyone - and it always amazes me just how humble Howie is. He’s loud, he’s a joker, hes snapchats biggest user and hes a great friend – just never expect him to be on time. 

Jo Pockett
Jo Pockett is the only person i know who would pre-work out dance moves with a broken foot for the Christmas party (after breaking her foot the week before). Jo is determined, selfless, friendly, a great mum and really easy to get along with.
Last month Jo arranged a fund raising day for the Neuro Foundation (which was a success). And I don't think I've ever seen someone act with such drive to make something happen (as it nearly fell apart a number of times in the build up). On the flip side though...She also eats a worrying amount of rabbit food (the thought of which terrifies me).

Jo (left) Kerri-Anne (Right)
Kerri-Anne Wood
Always giggling there is no question that Kerri-Anne likes to laugh. But even beyond that I think it's fair to say that Kerri-Anne is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She also has an amazing ability to speak with authority without raising her voice (her words carry real weight). Kerri - Anne lifts the spirits of people when she is around and that sounds like such a simple thing but it is so important. She's great to be around, a fantastic mum and I'm really looking forward to spending more time with her - as well as watching her become the person that she has started to become.

Hayley Drake
I don't think that I have watched anyone grow and develop as much as Hayley has in the time that I have known her (7 or so years). Hayley has become outwardly more confident whilst developing a playful feistiness about her (which she uses on a near daily basis thanks to the antics of the rest of her team).
Hayley is a geek (self confessed) but she is also friendly, an individual, supportive, loves arty stuff (I will be abused for that comment) and also has a fantastic taste in music. Underneath all of that she also has an amazing, caring heart which at times she might try and hide - but in fact with every moment becomes more evident. 

Wifey's Birthday......
For a brief 4 weeks in the year, Cass and I are only a year apart in age. But on December 15th that changes as the gap again grows to 2 years. I took Cass out to her favourite restaurant on the 14th (after recovering from the Christmas party the night before) before taking her shopping the next day. So Happy Birthday wifey....and more on shopping in a bit....

Christmas Questions.....
I'll speak about what I've been up to over Christmas in Chapter 23 - but I just wanted to answer now some Christmas questions that have been asked.....

What do you like most about Christmas?
Christmas is one of my favourite times of year - because spending time with friends and family is one of my favourite things (and my heart breaks for those that arent able to do that). Obviously with working shifts though I dont get to do as much of it as Id like and it can get me a bit down. Sometimes it works out really well with shifts (like this year Im off on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and seeing people on the 22nd and 23rd) but at other times it works out really badly (I worked Christmas morning last year and virtually every other day in the Crimbo period). Ive got a lot to be thankful for though, and Christmas is a really good time to reflect and to realise that.

Im also not very good If (Im being really honest about it) with remembering the real meaning of Christmas and the “why” part at Christmas time. I (like so many others) tend to get so drawn into everything else around Christmas that I end up forgetting about the background. I lose track of the “about” section – and coming from someone who believes what I believe thats really bad – but I am working on it.

The other thing I love is a very simple thing – and that is at Christmas time you generally see the best in people. You see people going out of their way to help others and it can be amazing to watch and be a part of. Kindness is everywhere on a daily basis anyway (unlike what the Daily Mail would have you believe), but at Christmas time – its just more obvious. So a challenge for you (and me) this year is to go out of your way to help someone this Christmas time that you know needs support in one way or another. It could be that theyve had a hard year and they just need someone to talk to, or it could be that you know someone that is going to be alone on over the period. Be the person that stands by their side this Christmas and helps them through.

What don’t you like about Christmas?
I have two (quite massive) pet hates about Christmas – and Ill explain why for both (although one should be blindingly obvious):
1.       Christmas Carols. No – I am not Scrooge. I do not walk around saying “Humbug”. When I was growing up however, my Dad was a Team Vicar. And what this meant was that at Christmas time I would more often than not have to go to 4 or 5 Christmas services over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (think how late presents must have been in the day!).  I don’t know how long it takes you before one song starts to grate a little bit at your soul…but I can honestly say that if I never hear “away in a manger” again it will be too soon. I completely understand that carols can have a massive impact and even on those that don’t go to Church (and that is fantastic) – but for the most part I will go out of my way to avoid them (which on reflection probably ties in with how I find myself lost in Christmas and forgetting the meaning …. And yep that’s a revelation for me right there). Still, one carol I will never tire of (if it’s done correctly and not done with a choir of screechers) is Silent Night. Absolutely beautiful. 
2.       On the Facebook page last week – I mentioned that I might say something controversial. And it’s about the other thing I don’t like about Christmas – Shopping. Now for the vast majority of things, I now do my shopping online. Let’s face it, it’s much easier. You might enjoy wading through tides of dawdly people in town. But I don’t. Dawdly people frustrate me, and I hate crowds of people – so Christmas shopping isn’t for me. But as I started wandering through Merry Hill shopping arcade last week for Wifey’s birthday something started occurring to me and I started developing a plan for how to fix Christmas shopping. Now let’s face it – weekend Christmas shopping is absolutely vile – but when I was doing in this shopping centre last week something that really started to dawn on me was the sheer number of people that didn’t need to be there. For instance, people that are retired have no need to go shopping at the weekends (unless they need someone to go with them). So why do they choose to go when it is much busier? Similarly, people that don’t work for whatever reason (I’ll leave that to cover a wide range of groups) have no need to go at the weekends either – and taking the majority of those two sets of people out of weekend shopping would make a massive difference and with less people crammed in at weekends and more spread out in the weeks leading up to Crimbo then the high street actually might have people like me return to it rather than doing everything online. So there it is…it’s not a finished idea and it might come across as selfish - but it also might stop some dawdling and stop the violence amongst people fighting in Asda for the last pack of pigs in blankets.

What is your favourite Christmas film?
As a confession – I didnt think that I liked many Christmas films. As it turns out though, I do actually like quite a few. Im not as sold on Elf as wifey is, but its certainly a film that is growing on me (and thats probably lucky as Im forced to watch it every year) but the Muppet Christmas Carol is a film that I adore and it has me in stiches of laughter every time I watch it. I also love Its a wonderful life and are films that arent really Christmas films but are set at Christmas allowed to count? Because if they are then things like Gremlins and the grossly underrated Just friends also come into play. Oohhhh and that also means Die Hard comes into play. Yippee Ki-yay…… 

When did you first discover that Santa wasn't real?
Say what????? What are you saying here??? Seriously though - when you start to get socks in your stocking it's a sign that the game could well be up. 

So there you have it. The last chapter for the year. The final chapter (or season finale) will emerge in the first week or so of January and I'll be taking you through a number of resolutions...and showing you where I've dropped a few hints about what they could be. For the time being though, let me just finish by saying that I consider myself to be honoured and completely blessed to have so many amazing people in my life. Christmas is a time for reflection, and writing this chapter has really reminded me how lucky I am. So thank you for being part of my life. I'll leave you all with this video.

10 resolutions will return soon so please subscribe using the white box above, keep up to date via Facebook or the twitter. Merry Christmas and a happy new year. And happy birthday JC - for without you Christmas wouldn't even happen.

God bless