Week 42: Complete a Rubik’s Cube

A Rubik’s Cube – The 3D puzzle made up of a 8 sides of 3×3 cubes, all with different colours. The aim – Make all sides one solid colour.

A Rubik’s Cube was suggested, when coming up with challenges, as a way to test both my concentration and patience. You, like myself, have probably heard the stories of people picking up a Rubik’s Cube and completing it in 10 minutes. The success stories of making this cube look easy. I’m fairly good with logic and completing puzzles, I once completed ‘The River Test’, which I’m told only 10% of people on the planet complete. So in truth, I thought a Rubik’s cube wouldn’t be THAT hard. To give you a bit of background, Erno Rubik, the inventor of the cube a month to complete it. There are 42 quintillion different states the cube can be in, but only state that is correct. It took my nearly five minutes to realize this was going to be hard.

Concentration

My original aim was to complete the Rubik’s Cube in one weekend. In reality, I was so optimistic with this ambition. It took me lots of reading of tips and persistence getting used to the cube to work out how to do it. You must first start of by building through the levels, starting at the bottom. Remembering the each, middle piece on each side, represents the colour of that side. Starting with the white side you must complete the bottom of the cube, being sure to pay attention to the colour that the each other piece must match too. Repairing your mistakes is key, and often going over your tracks is the key with it. The common error I was going with was constantly moving the side facing me when trying to solve. I found it to be important to keep this side constant to remember each move and mistake you had to repair. You would then build up the levels making sure everything begins to match, before finally finishing on the top. It certainly got harder as you got closer to finishing as mistakes could prove costly and you could have to start again.

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It eventually took me near on 2 months to complete the cube, just the 1440 hours more than I had anticipated. Within these hours was endless frustration at both myself messing it up and people thinking they would have a go (you know who you are). I was determined to complete it, and an evening dedicated to complete it, saw me celebrate finishing like I had just won the World Cup for England. My patience was certainly tested, but the reward was sweet.

COMPLETE

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Week 41: No Added Sugar

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

This week I would be giving up added sugar for 7 days.

What is counts as added sugar, I here you ask. Anything with unnatural sugars added to the food. So my usual diet of cereal in the morning with a cup of tea and two sugars followed by a Tesco Meal deal Chicken Salad sandwich, packet of walkers sensations, a pack of minstrels with a lucozade sport for lunch, and dinner caked with ketchup was off the table. This doesn’t include the regular chocolate, or sporadic doughnuts or cakes throughout the week.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
Shopping for the week.

Inspired by my flat mate, Marc, who had done this challenge but for longer, I promised myself there would be no added sugar for 7 days.

I heard after three or four days, I would have a sugar crash and the first few days wouldn’t be that bad. Well, it must have been the placebo effect, as after one day I felt awful. My mind was telling me I was desperate for sugar and I was shattered. It may have been the lack of sugared tea or the 10 minute energy bursts from a chocolate bar, but I was exhausted. Though day one was just a small taste of what I was in for.

A typical meal
A typical meal

By the end of the week, I was exhausted of the challenge, not physically but mentally. I was craving things, physically I wasn’t too exhausted. I’d get by with bananas, pasta and coffee to make things not too tough physically. Mentally it became hard work, things become more annoying than ever before, planning what you eat is hard work, and the everything with added sugar became ten times more delectable. What I quickly learnt is giving up added sugar for any length of time more than a week, is just not practical or sociable, reducing your added sugar levels is easy. I have never had to worry about what I eat, putting on weight has never been a problem. It’s probably the first time in my life I consciously looked at the ingredients when doing my weekly shop. By doing this though, I quickly saw how much added sugars are in my everyday foods and just how easy it would be to reduce the amounts you have. A 15-year Harvard study, showed participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. As a man of heart, I don’t want my heart to be diseased, and by taking a bit more time the chances can be easily reduced.

A typical snack
A typical snack

I think I could give up anything for a week, in reality it’s not ideal, but can be done. I wouldn’t recommend giving up added sugar for a prolongued period of time, in social elements no added sugar becomes very awkward, particularly when drinking alcohol. Vodka, soda water and fresh lime isn’t so refreshing after having two of them. The endless adverts for fizzy drinks, chocolates and fast food restaurants make it almost unbearable. What I would recommend is just taking a bit of time to reading how much added sugar you having, if you’re anything like me, you’d be quite surprised.

EDITORS NOTE: I did binge on a KFC the day after freedom, so I don’t have any moral high ground to preach.

Teased with cake...
Teased with cake…

Week 37: Moving Out

At the age of 24, you could probably say this was weeks challenge (though probably more than a week) was way overdue.

This week, the time came to leave home and move out. Though I have moved out for the university years, moving out post university, is the real moving out for good. I finally found myself in a financial position to be able to pay some rent and move closer to work.

My move sees me move from Hastings to Brighton (Hove actually). The main reason for the change of location was to be closer to work. I swapped an hour and a half car journey to a two minute walk in the mornings. I mean it doesn’t get much better than what I’ve got now. I now live walking distance from work, in a city that has far much more going on than the Hastings.

That said, leaving Hastings is no easy task. Anyone outside of Hastings, will slate the place, but I will not let anyone but myself say a bad word on Hastings. 24 years of growing up in Hastings and loved the place. Okay, I’m only an hour away from Hastings if needed, but a part of me will really miss the place.

All ready to go...
All ready to go…

The move itself was a bit of a pain, mainly fitting all my clothes into my car. Who knew I had so much stuff? It’s taken a while to sort out my room how I like it, and not sure it’s there yet but time will tell. Living in the countryside and moving to the city, I will have to get used to shutting the curtains after getting out of the shower. Given a few surprises to a couple of pedestrians already!

The new room...
The new room…

The move is the start of the next chapter in my life I guess, having lived in Brighton two weeks at the time of writing this… I can safely say I’m going to enjoy it here. My liver might not, but my mind will.

Shout out to my parents for putting up with my for the last 24 years, no easy task. Shout out to Carl and Marc who will have the unfortunate task of having to live with me for the foreseeable future. I wish you all the luck in the world, you’ll need it.

The Boys
The Boys

Week 33: Festivals

This week I delved into the world of music festivals by visiting the Isle of Wight for Bestival.

4 nights, camping, middle of September. Good fun, no doubt.

A common theme of the weekend is fitting things into small spaces. (No sexual innuendo there). Clothes, tent, chair, blow up bed, pillow, endless amount of toiletries, crates of alcohol, food and all my fancy dress outfits into one manageable amount proved tough. Especially with me being as vain as I am, and deciding to take my whole wardrobe. Then fitting this into a car with three other people is the next challenge. Then fitting this car onto a ferry at 6am on a Thursday morning, with 80 000 other festival goers wanting to go. Then fitting 80 000 festival goers onto the small island of the Isle of Wight. You see where I’m going with this?

The journey was pretty smooth, however, it was only once you arrive at Bestival and you have to take the treck will all your stuff on your back to your camping location that things get hard. My bag, 90L big, was just killing my back. I’m not made out for lugging things from one place to another, especially in wellies.

Bestival 1

Picking a pop up tent, was one of my finest ideas. Chuck it out the bag an it’s up. Honestly, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t have these things?

So camp is set up, camping chair in place, sun is kind of out, first beer is opened. All is needed is to dress up as a hippie, in line with the Summer of Love theme, and you’re in the Bestival fantasy land.

Camp
Camp

I have to say, I was quite disappointed of the lineup this year… With rumours of Muse pre-event never coming true, I was left with Chemical Brothers and Mark Ronson as the only acts I wanted to see. What it did mean though, was there was time to see things/try things I’ve never done before. Here’s a quick list of what I managed to fit in at this music festival.

– Touched a bird of prey
– Hugged a Llama
– Had an oil massage
– Sat in a ‘front room’ of 6 people listening to acts I’ve never heard of play.
– Explored an ambient forest
– Found a ‘Secret party’
– Played Mini Golf
– Saw three blokes get married in an inflatable church
– Bought endless amounts of terrible fancy dress

Activities
Activities

It must be said for the four days, I did not have a care in the world. The atmosphere is about as friendly as I have ever been part of. There was not even a hint of any animosity during the weekend, it was the summer of love after all.

Mainstage
Mainstage

Despite my complaints of the lineup also, I had a belter of a time to the acts I saw, ‘The Cuban Brothers’, not Chemical, was a hell of a laugh that stands out in my mind. The Jacksons making you boogie, what’s not to love about that. Singing a long to a man playing piano in a secret party in a forest, what’s not to love about that. More pyrotechnics and lights than you can imagine at The Port, what’s not to love about that. A sofa where a guy just plays acoustic music, what’s not to love about that.

IMG_9388

Okay, the toilets can be pretty rank at times; The rain on the final night was borderline unbearable; Not being able to stand up in my tent drove me mad. Showering with cold water in front of thousands of other campers was painful; Never having phone signal was irritating. But as I walked past the 8ft Love robot and world’s largest disco ball, to treck up the now muddy hill back to the car, I could only think how I didn’t want to return to normality. Maybe the hippie life is for me. (On edit: Having re-intergrated to the real world and office lifestyle, you’ll be pleased to know I haven’t grown my hair and taking the hippie lifestyle).

Week 32: Cooking live lobster

Quite a simple task this week, I was approached by our catering manager at work to come into the kitchen and try something for my blog.

I walked into the kitchen and could smell the fish from outside the door. I hate fish the little slimy buggers, so was thinking the worst. Once I opened the door, it was worse, a box full of live lobsters, in ice. The challenge was simply pick up a live lobster and help the chef cook it. Picking the lobster up was the worst thing, I was told they are aggressive things, and fortunately their pincers were taped up. Just the way the little monster wriggled around in the box was off putting enough for me.

I did however have to pick it up, it was using it’s legs to push me away like mad, but I held on all the same. I didn’t enjoy holding it all. The smell and the wriggling made the whole experience very unpleasant.

Live Lobster

Cooking lobsters alive is the way to cook lobsters apparently.. It reduces the chances of food poisoning I’m told. I couldn’t physically cook it myself, the thought of cooking the little monster alive, was too much for me. I’d happily eat a lobster I haven’t seen cooked, but I think there would be blood on my hands if I had to kill the creature myself. Note to self, you have no career as a chef.

Week 31: Painting

Week 31 of my comfort zone challenge… this week I got my creative juices flowing as I received a painting lesson.

To say I’m not an artist would be a bit of an understatement, despite my mum, sister and uncle all being excellent artists, I got the art genes from my dad. A bit of my art background, during my year 7 art class, I was given a merit for my art drawing with the teacher telling me “I love that you’ve done some abstract art, if I wanted it to look like the object, I’d take a photo”… I did however, try and draw to look like the object. My other infamous piece of artwork as a child is my drawing of a goalkeeper aged 9 (see below). So it’s safe to say I wasn’t blessed with artistic ability.

Tom Rose - 26/12/2000
Tom Rose – 26/12/2000

I can’t remember ever really painting at school, so was keen to have a little lesson and try it out. I contacted Marcia from Creative Art Academy, and managed to arrange a good time to do it. So happy I did, as Marcia was one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. Originally from America, she moved over to England 20 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Talk about doing something out of your comfort zone… Moving to another country. I had no idea what I wanted to paint really, so left it Marcia to find something suitable. Bless her, she knew I was an Oasis fan, so found me a suitable picture!

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So how was she going to make a terrible artist paint? Well we started off by reducing the picture into a grid, and drawing the shapes in each section of the grid on a piece of paper. Once we were happy with the outline, we turned over the piece of paper and coloured the whole back of it in with pencil. Then we put the paper over the canvas and went over the original lines to put it onto the canvas. Marcia was great at helping me find the correct colours, and they key to mixing in the colours was to not let it dry. We were doing a mix media painting, using water colours and oil paints (I think).

Progress
Progress

Conversation flowed whilst we’d work the magic, and the time just flew. I almost got in concentration when doing it, so much so I forgot to eat my ginger biscuits that were kindly offered! It was extremely therapeutic and I can totally understand why people paint regularly.

Wow..

I have to say, I never believed I would be able to do a job as I did on this. Marcia is one hell of a teacher. If you’re local to the Hastings area, I implore you to get in touch with Marcia and learn to paint with her. She does all sorts including ceramics and yoga! A lady of many talents!

Proud as punch

Just look what I did in two and a half hours with her. Genuinely surprised myself that I could do this, and I’m proud as punch of my painting. I’ve decided to put up my masterpiece on my bedroom wall!

Pride of place
Pride of place

Week 28: The Big Issue

A relatively simple comfort zone challenge this week in the grand scheme of things. Simply go and buy a copy of the big issue.

How many times have you walked past a Big Issue seller? You know the type, shabby clothes, overgrown facial hair, often with a dog. How many times have you barely acknowledged them when they have asked you if you’d like a copy of the big issue? For me, it was way too many. To the point my ignorance of the big issue was almost embarrassing.

I’m ashamed to say that I was completely unaware that The Big Issue magazine is an initiative to get to support homeless people. The idea is that the magazine vendors have to be homeless and they sell them to help get back on track. How could I not know that? I’ve actually ignored hundreds of people selling them in the past, and in reality this is a brilliant idea.

Big Issue seller on the left with Sadie
Big Issue seller on the left with Sadie

I walked past a seller in Hove. He was leaning on a lamppost, with his dog by his side, and the rest of his magazine under a shelter. So used to being ignored, he barely even asked me if I wanted a magazine. I approached him and asked “how much for one?”.. he quickly replied “Just £2.50, sir”. As I rummaged around my wallet and started dusting of the cobwebs in the note section. He asked “How’s your day going?”… I explained how I was on my lunch break and just taking a stroll into town. I was hesitant to ask him how his day was in return, I didn’t want to make him feel bad in anyway, but it felt like it was the best way of keeping conversation with him. “It’s been a slow morning, me and Sadie (pointing to his dog) aren’t selling that well, you’re our fifth or sixth customer. Hopefully things will pick up this afternoon, now the sun is out.” Sadie looked like a golden retriever type dog. Handing over a fiver, I claimed I only had a fiver and he could keep the change, and asked if I could give Sadie a stroke. “Of course, she loves the attention. Don’t worry, I’ve got some change… I don’t want you missing out on lunch.” I then proceeded to give Sadie a little stroke, whilst talking in a ridiculous high pitched voice, like I do with dogs. He gave me the change, wished me a good day, and I went on my way.

The Big Issue

What a pleasant experience. I didn’t catch his name, but what a top bloke. I know there are stories where Big Issue sellers try to have people on, but this guy was a genuinely pleasant man. What he does with the money, that’s not for me to say or judge. At least he is trying to earn his way, so fair play to him.

I’ve had a little read of The Big Issue magazine, not a bad read. Kept me entertained over my lunch, and certainly worth paying £2.50 for, even to help someone out.

Week 22: Knit and Natter

Week 22, I was invited to Cheneys Lodge in Seaford, for a Knit and Natter session. Cheneys lodge is block of properties, ran by Sussex Housing and Care to help support senior residents.

The purpose of the session is to help the older residents make friends and interact, so they don’t feel lonely in their later life. I was invited by Rebecca who organises the sessions, and was told the lovely people would teach me to knit. She wasn’t wrong.

Needless to say, I have no knitting experience on my CV. I still require my mother to sew on the spare buttons on my shirts, yet alone knit a scarf. I can natter to be fair, so if in doubt I’ll talk my way out of trouble.

At this week’s session we had Diana, Rita, Sue, Ann, Pete, Rebecca and myself. Nice numbers, as it meant I could at least remember everyone’s name. Diana would be my teacher, a genuinely lovely lady. Armed with my orange wool and two needles I was ready to go. Though I had no idea what to do.

Diana would ‘cast on’ for me, and then proceed to show me what to do. “Through the hole, around, back through, off, repeat”. She showed me a good ten times, and it was one of those moments when I went “yeah, got you” then as soon as she gave me the needles it was like I hadn’t been watching her for the past five minutes. Fortunately, she was very patient (she needed to be) and kept talking me through it. “Through the hole, around, back through, off.”

Slow start
Slow start

Despite these simple instructions, I managed to mess it up a lot. Diana would repair the damage in seconds everytime. I did slowly get the hang of it, only with intense concentration however. I looked around the room, and the others were knitting all sorts of shapes with such ease. I can’t even begin to work out how you knit shapes a line was tough enough.

The nattering part was also fun, Diana asked why I had to do a challenge every week. I explained I didn’t have too (didn’t want her thinking I was on community service or anything like that) but that it was my new years resolution and explained some of the things I had done. She told me some of the things she had done… Sky dives, white water rafting, mountain expeditions, bungee jumping, she actually had done loads of cool things that I’d love to do.

So after an hour, what did I knit? A slug’s scarf. Big enough to keep any slug warm in the winter. Yeah I was terrible, but it’s harder than it looks. They told me I was good (being nice of course).. Fair play to all you knitters out there, this requires a bit of skill and patience, neither of which I’m blessed with!

My Slug Scarf
My Slug Scarf

Week 14: Radio

Week 14 of My Comfort Zone Challenge and this week I delved into the world of radio, by making a guest appearance on Brighton station, Juice 107.2.

Juice 107.2

Before I describe the events of what happened on the day, I will first take you back to my final year at Bournemouth University. My housemate, Andy, and I were offered a radio show on the University radio station. A great opportunity and experience to do something different. We both liked the idea, and even came up with a brilliant name for the show, Bants and Decs (tell me that isn’t genius?!). However, despite there only being 27 listeners at peak times, I bottled it as I was worried about embarrassing myself. I can’t speak for Andy here, but neither of us did the show, and to this day I regret not doing it. LIFE IN THE COMFORT ZONE!

So I was really keen to right a few wrongs, overcome a previous demon. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to interview on the drive time show, for which, I’m extremely grateful to the Juice team, particularly Hannah and Guy. I was also lucky enough to have something worthwhile talking about for a radio interview, something I’d never have had previously.

It’s fair to say the butterflies were flying in my stomach before this. In an attempt to settle them I went to Nando’s, on my own, with a notebook. I made a couple of pages of notes about all the tasks I’d previously done, as I knew I would freeze on the spot. Honestly, I’ve got a memory of a goldfish at times. I finished my butterfly chicken, and sat there like, what happens if I freeze? I was told it would be set up as a friendly chat style interview. I love a friendly chat normally, I could talk for days, but not under the pressure of thousands of people listening. It was too late by this point to change anything. I have to say writing notes was one of the better ideas I’ve had in my time, unlike eating a phall, as it was my go to throughout the interview.

Radio Interview

Once I was there, everything seemed to go a million miles an hour, about the same speed as my heart. Two glasses of water to clear my throat, a quick run down of how the interview would go, The Kooks and Route 94 later and I’m being introduced on air. I couldn’t really remember what I said until I listened to the interview back. ‘Hopefully I’ll make a few people’s life more comfortable, by making mine uncomfortable’ Where did that come from? Though I was only on air for a couple of minutes, it really did seem like ages. It’s very strange talking about yourself for people.

Myself and Guy Lloyd
Myself and Guy Lloyd

Once I finished on air, I was in a bit of a trance. My phone was going mental with people contacting me, and I just walked aimlessly through Brighton whilst my heart was pumping. It took me a while to come down back to reality. Not sure my heart would have been able to take that on a regular basis if I had have done a show at Uni.

My only regret is that I didn’t request a bit of Oasis Rock N Roll Star or Live Forever to play me out. Instead, I got a bit of Gwen Stefani, Ain’t No Holla Back Girl. I suppose I ain’t no Holla Back Girl, whatever that is.

In all honesty though, I’m glad I went on, and more importantly it was a great platform to promote the money I’m trying to raise for the Sara Lee Trust with my fire walk on the 18th April. https://www.justgiving.com/Tom-Rose-comfortzone

Anyway, have a listen for yourself below. Let me know what you think!

Week 9: Horse Riding

Week 9 of my comfort zone challenge, and this week I decided to take an interest in my sister’s hobby, horse riding. My sister, Sarah, has been riding horses for 21 years, of which she has had her own horse, Bronte, for 10. Being the terrible brother I am, until this week, I think I have only seen Bronte once in those 10 years. I had been living life so in the comfort zone, I’d never taken an interest in my sisters main hobby. So I gave my sister a text, and arranged a riding lesson.

I arrived at Hyfield Stables, in Crowhurst, and as soon as I got out of the car, the fresh farm smell instantly hit me. It’s like a mix of manure and fresh air up your nose. Strangely, the smell really grew on me.

Being 15 minutes early, I sat by the riding school and watched the lesson that was already taking place. There was a girl, no older than 13, just whipping the horse over jumps, making it look easy. I thought to myself, if a 13 year old girl can ride horses, I should be fine.

The Riding School
The Riding School

Sarah arrived, showed me Bronte and then took me to the horse I would be riding, Oliver. She assured me that Oliver was very well behaved and would be no trouble. I was slightly relieved as Oliver was massive.

Sarah set up both the horses with saddle, stirrups and reins and we were ready to go. I actually thought we may start off in the riding school, but Sarah said she would give me a crash course and we’ll head straight out. Sarah’s crash course to her brother was as followed: “Kick to go, pull back to stop, pull one rein to steer.” To be fair, that’s all I needed to know.

My new pal Oliver
My new pal Oliver

Before we left the stables, Oliver decided he wanted a drink. Who am I to argue with him? He’s bigger than me. Rehydrated, we rode into the Crowhurst countryside, fortunately it was a beautiful day. We slowly went through the gears from walk, into a trott, into a canter. The faster we went, the more fun it was.

I quickly realised, horse riding was all about balance. Sarah would always remind me to keep my heels down. This would help with balance and keeping posture as the horse went faster. It was like riding a bike in a way. You had to kick to move (pedal) and steer with the reins. Without kicking, the horse just wouldn’t move.

The ride itself, was a great mix of relaxation with the occasional adrenaline rush to keep yourself entertained. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. On top of that, it was a great way to catch up with my sister.

By the end of the ride, my legs were aching, but there were no ‘pelvic’ injuries that I was previously warned about before. I came out feeling much better for doing something different with my Sunday. Makes a nice change from the usual hungover corpse that lies on the sofa most Sundays.

A special thanks should go out to both my sister, for taking me out, and Sophie North of Hyfield Stables for kindly letting me ride her horse Oliver. Below is a highlight reel of the ride!