Week 8: Bingo!

Week 8 of my comfort zone challenge,  saw me visit my local bingo hall. I don’t like to have preconceptions of things, but in my head I pictured bingo being a relaxed, jovial evening out with plenty of the ‘older generation’. It didn’t really appeal to me, how fun can circling numbers be?

In doing my research before the event, I was absolutely amazed to find out this bingo hall was open 11am-11pm, EVERYDAY! I mean, surely there isn’t the demand for bingo, all day, everyday?!

In tack with three of my good friends, we took on, what I assumed to be prime time, the Saturday evening session. Before they would let us loose in the bingo hall, we needed to sign up and become a member. They then asked if we wanted to play on a screen or in a book. Being the traditionalist that I am, and against the advice of the Deluxe Bingo staff, I went for the books with the dabber. It’s not bingo if you’re just touching an Ipad right?

We got a very quick run through on how to play bingo by both the reception staff and the number announcer. For those that have never been, you are given a ticket with 6 boxes, that have the numbers 1-90 randomly positioned within the boxes. The announcer will then proceed to announce randomly generated numbers with the aim being to fill either one horizontal line, followed by two horizontal lines and then one full box, a full house.

We went to the main hall, and to my shock the place was packed. Finding a table for four of us was difficult, and when we finally did find a table, we must of clearly look liked first timers. Instantly as we sat down, the women to the right of me (pictured below), who became my friend over the course of the night, asked “Is it your first time?… Just give me a shout if you need any help”. How hard can it be just highlighting numbers?

Bingo with the boys
Bingo with the boys

It quickly became apparent after the first round, that bingo requires concentration. It wasn’t the relaxed jovial atmosphere I expected, when play started complete silence took over the room, so you could hear the announcer. The numbers are reeled off so quickly, you don’t get a chance to look anywhere but your book. To my dismay, there weren’t any jokes as they announced the numbers. There was no “You and me, Number 3” or “Tickety-boo, 62.” The closest we got was “Two fat ladies, 88”. This did disappoint me.

Once I started getting the knack of filling numbers in time, whilst evaluating how many I needed to complete a line/box, I began to become more and more gutted each time I didn’t win. As we became close to getting a full house, we would whisper to each other, “I’ve got a busy box”. Not sure how we came to calling it that, but every game one of the four of us, would claim their box is getting busy. Each time, we were just one or two away from the prize.

In full concentration...
In full concentration…

As the evening went on, the prizes went up. The jackpot started on £50 and ended up £250. As the prizes became higher, the gasps of disappointment around the room became louder as someone in the room stole the jackpot.

The women next to me would knit in-between games to keep herself entertained. She looked very content, and would occasionally engage in conversation to see how we were getting on. It felt quite mothering, if I’m honest!

The room was boiling and with no windows around, I quickly lost track of time. By the penultimate game, I had no idea what time it was, only that I was three quarters of the way through my pint (I barely had time to drink, the concentration levels were so high). I was one off hitting the first line, which would have given me a £20 prize and in profit for the evening. My top box started to become busy, I told the boys, and they all ignored me. All of a sudden, I was one away from the full house. All I need was the number 67. My friend Mike, opposite me, had noticed I was just one away, and when the number 57 not 67 was called out, he said “you’ve won mate!”.. I hadn’t. When you need one number, that is all your mind is waiting for, you certainly don’t mistake it for another number. Three numbers later… “67!”… “YES!” I cried. I had only gone and hit the full house. I won the £200 cash prize, I couldn’t believe my luck. My women friend, was delighted for me. I think she shouted well done louder than I had shouted to claim the prize.


In hindsight, I was gutted I didn’t shout BINGO. I definitely had pictured myself shouting it out. I guess in the moment I was too excited to have won.

Ending the night with a lovely little cash prize put me in the mood for celebration, which meant I didn’t wake up the next morning with £200 in my wallet. I woke up with a lighter wallet and a banging headache. I blame the bingo.

I was told by the announcer afterwards, to tell people that not everyone wins first time when they go. What do they say about beginners luck?

Having won some money here, I think it’s time to start giving a bit back and using my luck for some more charitable tasks. If you guys have any good ideas for me, swing them my way!


Week 7: A Valentine’s Special – FREE HUGS

This week I wanted to incorporate the romantic theme of Valentine’s day, but having already done a blind date, I wanted to stay away from the dating scene.

Inspired by Juan Mann’s Free Hug Movement, I wanted to create a Free Hug Movement of my own around Brighton. The idea is that you give a hug to strangers, as a random act of kindness to make somebody’s day better.

Rather than a sign, saying Free Hugs, I created a cheap t-shirt online. The t-shirt was terrible fitting, it came out like a tent on me. Not the best start. Then to complete the look, I was convinced to buy a helium love heart balloon. Luckily, it didn’t rain, as I didn’t for a second consider a plan B for if it did rain.

All ready to go...
All ready to go…

I wasn’t particularly nervous before this task, maybe I just under estimated it, but I went in with a ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ type attitude. It was only once I had taken off my hoodie, shouted ‘FREE HUGS’ and received ZERO hugs, that I began to regret doing it and felt like a weirdo. I have to say this is probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.

There was a huge sense of relief when I received that first hug, I think I may have even thanked them. What was amazing, once I had received the first hug, like a domino effect, people just kept coming. The key to the whole task was finding areas of high footfall. In areas of low footfall, the recipient found themselves in an awkward social situation and people were hesitant to do it. Funny how people follow the lead of others, right?

There were a few funny reactions to my cries of FREE HUGS. A couple of people thought I was shouting FREE DRUGS and replied “yes please”. One gentlemen, gratefully received my free hug, but told me his hugs weren’t free and that I owed him £2. He let me off eventually. One women asked me before hugging “you’re not a weirdo are you?”… I couldn’t honestly reply saying no, I mean I’m giving out free hugs for pete’s sake.

I think it’s fair to say this challenge is something way outside of my comfort zone. I can’t say that I’ve ever gone around hugging strangers. I can think of countless times I barely even look at other people on tubes or hardly said hello as I walked past someone I know. I’m not a particularly loving person at the best of times, so this was definitely a good challenge. What I can say, is each hug that I gave did make me smile. Watching people’s reaction was very funny, and from what I could tell, I seemed to make a few other people smile… Whether it was from the hug, or just laughing at the strange man giving out free hugs. A smile is a smile, I’ll claim them all.

Hopefully my random act of kindness made a few people’s day, theirs certainly made mine.

BELOW IS A HIGHLIGHT REEL OF THE DAY (The little chap at the end was a legend)

Week 6: Tarot Psychic Reading

This week’s task definitely took me outside the comfort zone. To say I don’t believe in external forces/powers is an understatement. I’m a complete Atheist, in fact here’s a list of things I don’t believe in:

– God/Religious beings
– Being able to see in the future/past
– Karma
– Having a gut ‘feeling’ something will happen
– Couples that are ‘meant to be’
– Ghosts
– A sixth sense
– Fate
– Santa Claus

….You get the idea.

If you had asked me my opinion on psychic’s before the task, I would of told you they are a complete fraud. Part of me still believes this.

Jan was the lady that gave me her reading at her house. She was very kind and welcoming. Her flat was small and had a lovely relaxing aroma as soon as you walked in. She took me to to her dining room and asked me to sit down. “Is this your first time darling”… it was. She explained there is nothing to worry about, and all I needed to do is say yes or no to her questions, to help her with the reading.

Pre-Reading and the bracelet that would reveal all...
Pre-Reading and the bracelet that would reveal all…

She gave me the pack of tarot cards and asked me to shuffle them, then pick 5 cards. She also wanted a piece of my jewellery to help her with the reading. I handed over my bracelet and the cards, and she put them in between 3 rocks that were on the table. I have no idea what relevance the rocks were meant to have. Perhaps they were there for show.

She started almost hugging my bracelet and stroking it up and down throughout the reading, with her eyes closed. She asked what I would like her to talk about… I had no idea really, I was very sceptical, so I just mentioned “Career”. She quickly went on to say how I worked hard and she could feel I’m exhausted when I’m finished. Easy win for her, considering I was in my work clothes and could probably tell from the bags on my face I was exhausted.

The reading went on and got more and more personal, including my love life. To her credit, she was getting a lot of things right. It’s very clever how my yes or no answers lead her to getting my life pretty much correct. A few things resonated with me:

– You have a close knit family
– You find it hard to let your guard down
– You’re big on trust and honesty
– You’ll be successful in your career

She was wrong on how I spend my money and she was insistent on a woman from the heavens coming through, before after a few no’s she decided a man was coming through, which we eventually agreed was my Granddad.

I’ll be honest, the reading made me feel good. She was telling me things that not only were right (eventually) but she’d often say things that I’d want to hear. Who doesn’t want to hear that your family is close and loving, that you’ll be successful, that your granddad is proud of you and that you’ll find love in September.

She also said I was a psychic, and that I can see in the future. “You know what you want darling, and you won’t settle for anything less. You’re a psychic you are darling”… She must have called me darling about 50 times over the 20 minute reading, which actually became quite endearing. Maybe she started calling me a psychic to try and get me on side and start believing, not a bad tactic.

Only at the end did she show me my cards, and they all had relevance to what she was saying, apart from “There will be a new addition to your family”… She decided that this would be either the love that I may find in July as she said or perhaps could be my sister.

Not for a second do I think she was psychic, could see my granddad or even know I was tired from work. She obviously started with vague statements and read my body language and reactions until she was right, and again, credit where credit is due, she was pretty much right.

However, what I did take from this is the feeling of positivity that I felt afterwards, which I could only assume would be heightened for other people. I no longer felt the feeling that psychics are a complete fraud etc. If it makes feel people feel good about themselves, why not let them do it? We all need a boost now and then, and if this gives it too people, then so be it.

To top of the whole session, after I had paid the money, she told me that all the money she raises from the readings, she donates to a brain disease charity that her husband had previously passed away from. A nice touch to end the session, which I actually kind of enjoyed.


Week 5: The HOTTEST Curry

This week’s original comfort zone challenge had to be postponed, so a last minute replacement challenge was undertaken instead.

Saturday evening, takeaway curry night, with the boys, in front of some awful Saturday night TV. These are usually, one of my favourite evenings, eating the joyous mix between colourings and flavours, whilst in the comfort of my own home.

I’m not normally too risky when taking on a bit of spicy food. Typically, I tend to go for the Chicken Tikka Masala or the Butter Chicken type meals on the Indian menu. In fact, on the Nando’s Lemon and Herb to Extra Hot spice chart, I push the boat out to a medium and that is testing me. It’s not my thing, so when asking my mates what to do last minute, eating something spicy seemed the obvious choice.

We all agreed, I’d attempt to take on a Phall from our local takeaway. To make it worse, when ordering over the phone, my mates thought it would be hilarious to ask it to be extra hot! (No worries, I’m paying for it). Lesson learnt, week 5, make sure you always order.

I stocked up with a 4 pint carton of milk, purely because I had heard it’s the best remedy for curing spicy food. I actually did no research on this prior to eating the curry, and I’m questioning if there is any truth in this, as it certainly did nothing for me.

The Phall
The Phall

The food arrived, and the dread of the task kicked in. I started by poking the end of my finger in to the sauce and licking it clean, to get a feel for the heat I was about to take on. It was outrageous. Instant burning in my mouth. I even got my friends to do the same, after which they were annoyed it was going to ruin their curries (ruining two korma’s I must add!).

Like a pre match football speech, I got myself in the zone. “One plateful, mind over matter, I can do it.”  I put on the video, gave myself another little pep talk, took the first mouthful and let the pain begin. Rather than the usual feeling of delight and relish, the feeling was of stress and regret. My mouth and tongue were just tingling with fire all over, all I could do was swig away at milk and take in deep breaths in the hope it would cool my mouth down… It didn’t.

As I slowly made my way through the dish, I worked out taking bites with chicken were easier, as the chicken itself wasn’t filled with spice. I also came to the conclusion that the bigger the spoonful, the quicker this would be over and done with. The milk was my only friend (my real friends were only good for laughing at me), as I was overcome with sweat and discomfort.

Struggling my way through
Struggling my way through

The heat in my mouth actually became a background thought as it didn’t get any worse from the first bite. What I didn’t expect was my stomach not liking the spice. I genuinely believed that once the food was in the stomach, there would be nothing to worry about. Of course this wasn’t the case, that would be too easy. Once I got to about two thirds of the way through the plate, my stomach was saying no more. Whether this was because of the three pints of milk in about 15 minutes or because of the hottest thing my body has ever tasted, I don’t know but I physically couldn’t eat anymore. Yes, I threw up. I ran to the toilet and it ALL came back up. Without going into details, this was just as painful a process of the process of putting it down my body. The spices left their mark as they said goodbye’s after their brief stay in the body.

I’d love to write, ‘eating a Phall has completely opened my mind, and I will eat them every week now”. I’d be completely lying. It was horrible, I didn’t enjoy any second of it and I never want to eat one again. I’m now going to pronounce it as a ‘Foul’ rather than a Phall. I’m genuinely amazed though, that people can eat Phalls and enjoy them.. I’d love to talk to someone that does, having tried it for myself now.

It’s safe to say I won’t be appearing on Man vs Food anytime soon.

I tried to video the whole task, however my phone ran out of space midway through… Here’s where I got to and the end result (not for the squeamish).

Shout out to JAKE RALPH for buying me my comfort zone mug (presents are encouraged). I’ll have a constant reminder now that…

Which one is the mug?
Which one is the mug?