The weird noise in the hallway of our new build apartment is still there!

The builders have been, switched off all of the power in our place and the noise continues. This confirms that it’s coming from our neighbours. The other side of the wall is their bathroom, what are they doing in there day and night?

The builders have now booked to go into our neighbours flat to investigate twice and both times as soon as they booked a visit to investigate, the noise stopped, so we called the builders and told them not to bother. As soon as the heat was off, both times, the noise came back.

Whatever they’re up to in there, they’re deliberately hiding it!

A surprise visit is called for, maybe a raid. Is a constant noise grounds for a search warrant?

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alan bennett

It was the coat that gave it away. It wasn’t even that nice a coat, a grey, rumpled overcoat that wouldn’t look good on anybody.

On Monday, sat opposite me on the 18:17 from London St Pancras to Peterborough via Hitchin, was the multi-award-winning playwright, screenwriter, actor and author, Alan Bennett.

At first I wasn’t sure it was really him so I Googled his name and found the picture above.  Sure enough it WAS him and he was wearing the same overcoat as in the picture.

I didn’t talk to him and he didn’t talk to anyone because he was extremely busy. At first, he was reading things from his phone which occasionally made him smile, then he produced a handful of what looked liked scripts from his bag, gave them the once-over, put them away then pulled out a laptop computer and started typing on it. He didn’t look anywhere near his 84 years of age. Maybe that was because of the boyish, slightly quizzical expression he had on his face as he looked at the screen.

The thing that struck me about him was although he was silent, he gave off a positive, happy vibe. It was quite a contrast to the rest of the people on the train. They were heading home from their jobs they hate in London to the houses they can’t afford in the Home Counties. The only thing they had in common with Alan was that their faces were as grey and drawn out as his overcoat.

I couldn’t help thinking, was Alan Bennett so positive and content because he’s successful or is he successful because he projects a vibe of positivity and contentment?

Or is it because he just loves that coat?

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The weird noise in the hallway of our new build apartment stopped!

We were disappointed because the builders had booked to go into our neighbours flat to investigate. We called the builders and told them not to bother because the noise had gone.

The next day, the noise was back. Was that just a coincidence or did our neighbours hurriedly disassemble their meth lab or doomsday machine?

I’ll keep you posted.

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The Heat is On

06Jan19

preheated oven

Every time I put something in the oven it reminds me of a classic George Carlin bit about the concept of a “preheated” oven.

George said… “It’s ridiculous! There are only two states an oven can possibly exist in, heated or unheated!”

I don’t get it either, surely, putting the food in AFTER you’ve heated an empty oven is a waste of energy. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to have the food in there from the start so it can absorb heat while the oven is getting up to temperature?

I think the whole “preheated” oven thing is a con. We’re being played by the makers of convenience food. Instead of the instructions telling you that the frozen pie takes nearly an hour to re-heat, they can make it sound more “convenient” when they print on the box that it takes, “forty minutes in a preheated oven”.

That logic makes more sense than what they expect us to believe which is that when the pie starts off in a cold oven and then has to deal with a warm oven, then finally a hot oven, it doesn’t know what to do!

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This is the strange noise in the hallway of our new apartment. It’s been going non-stop for over a month now. It sounds like it’s coming from the other side of the wall which is next door’s bathroom. We’ve asked them and they say they have no idea what it is either.

The builders came around yesterday to check it out and even switched off all of the power in our place but the noise was still there. The neighbours were out so they couldn’t check in there. They say they’ll make an appointment with them to find out more.

It MUST be our neighbours. What are they up to in their bathroom? If you have any idea, let me know.

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Phoney Fart

31Dec18

phone vibrate

 

“Oh, I thought you farted!”.

That’s what Julie said last night as we sat on the couch watching telly and I reached into my pocket and got out my mobile phone which had just vibrated to let me know I had a text.

Next time I need to fart on the couch, I won’t hold back. I’ll just check my phone straight afterwards.

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Cell Phones

28Dec18
Butlins

Parkhurst Prison 2030

Prison reform has gone too far.

All inmates in England will have 24-hour access to a phone soon. 50 jails will have landlines fitted to every cell before March 2020 and eventually all 118 prisons in England will have phones in cells.

It’s another barmy policy that’s been pushed through by do-gooders and snivel- libertarians. It’s going to cost British taxpayers £17 million.

All inmates, including killers and rapists, will be able to speak to friends and loved ones ‘in private’ any time, day or night.

The Justice Secretary David Gauke says the plan will reduce re-offending rates. Speaking from his office in cloud cuckoo land, he said, “At this time of year more than any other we’re reminded of the importance of family, and there can be few groups that this applies to more than prisoners”. – Mr Gauke doesn’t seem to realise that not all prisoners families are a positive influence on them!

This is just another one of these, “murderers and rapists are people too” ideas from the wet farts who think that no one has to take responsibility for their own actions because nothing is ever their fault. They blame society or the government or the media for everything.

It’s the latest in a series of daft ideas that has been brought in to reduce re-offending. The only guaranteed way to stop convicted criminals reoffending is not let them back out!

Surely making jails nicer places to live is going to INCREASE reoffending isn’t it? Did putting TVs in jails stop reoffending? And what about the people who went to jail because they don’t have a TV licence? They were forbidden from watching TV on the outside but can watch as much telly as they like on the inside!

Will criminals who were locked up for making threatening phone calls or running telephone scams be allowed to use the phones we’re paying to have installed in their cells?

How about this as an incentive not to reoffend; if you want to be able to use a phone or watch telly, DON’T COMMIT CRIME!

They should stick this ‘phones in cells’ idea where the prisoners have been sticking the 20,000 phones that get smuggled into prisons each year!

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Secret Sound

27Dec18

What the hell is this buzz?

This mysterious noise in the hallway of our new apartment never goes away. It started about a month ago and is more noticeable at night. At first I thought it was a neighbour’s fridge or freezer but it doesn’t cycle on and off, it’s continuous. The other side of the wall is next door’s bathroom. We’ve asked them and they say they have no idea what it is either.

If you know what it could be please leave a comment.

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Ticket To Snide

24Dec18

Delayed

My train was cancelled this morning due to “a lack of available trains”. What does that mean? The trains aren’t “available”, did they have other plans today?

I wonder if we’re given the real reason for delays and cancellations or if Thameslink have a random excuse generator. Since I’ve been commuting to London Blackfriars from Hitchin, trains have been delayed because of;
“Speed restriction over defective track earlier today”,
“A fault on this train”,
“More trains than usual needing maintenance”,
“A late incoming service” and
“A balloon caught in overhead wires”.

My favourite is when a train is delayed or cancelled, “Due to awaiting train crew”. I actually believe this one because obviously the train crew made the mistake of trying to get to work on a Thameslink train.

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Mack Nuggets

16Dec18

Here’s what I’ve been up to on Fix Radio in London, including:

International intrigue
Farts in the jungle
A scammer gets scammed
Lost love
Badger and the drone
A neighbourhood dispute
Your life as a movie
Sex in a churchyard
Darren hates criminal talk
Sex on a beach
Mistaken identity
Neighbour from hell
Attacked by an animal
The Psycho girlfriend
Finding a dead body
How to steal a Picasso

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Thameslink

If I didn’t bunk into 1st class every day, I would have to stand.

I travel on the 7:11 Thameslink from Hitchin to London Blackfriars every weekday. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have a first class ticket. My monthly season ticket is £409.40 and that’s supposed to include a seat so the only way I can get one is to sit in first class.

Looking through the glass door into standard class yesterday morning I had an idea. Why not remove all of the seats in there? They’d get more people in and could charge less for the tickets.

If you needed to sit down, you could bring your own folding chair. There’s always folding bikes on the train so what’s the difference? They could even rent out folding chairs like they do with deck chairs on the beach.

And they could change the name of Standard class to “standing” class. They should do that now anyway because, for most people, that’s what it is already.

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Mack Nuggets

02Dec18

Here’s what I’ve been up to on Fix Radio in London lately, including:

A Farting story

Going back

Words that Darren hates

A Rip Off stories

Fireworks embarrassment

How tomato sauce became portable

The story of a stolen heart

How to steal a Picasso

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Thameslink

What will happen on the day I get caught for fare dodging?

Like all bad habits, this one started gradually. I catch the 7:11 Thameslink train from Hitchin to London Blackfriars every week day. During the 42 minute journey, I do a lot of work on my MacBook. Emails are sent & replied to and I even get a bit of audio editing done. I can only do that if I get a seat. Lately that’s become much more difficult as the train gets busier every day. One morning, I knew I had a lot to get done, there were no seats in standard class, so I just slipped into an empty seat in first class. That’s against the rules because my ticket is only for standard class. I justified it by reasoning to myself that if I’ve paid for a seat I should get one and if Thameslink can’t provide one in standard class, I have a right to one somewhere else on the train.

For a little while, I found myself doing that any time I couldn’t find a seat but now, instead of getting on at the back and walking the length of the train looking for a seat, I just get on at the front and go straight into first class.

One morning I got a fright when I noticed the bloke sitting opposite me was wearing a Thameslink photo ID badge. I thought, of all of the people in this first class carriage, I’ve sat opposite the ticket inspector!

It turned out that he wasn’t an inspector but he did work for Thameslink. In fact, I’ve since worked out that most of the first class passengers at that time of the morning are Thameslink management. They all know each other and get off together at Finsbury Park.

I’ve become quite friendly with them too. At first it was a quiet nod, then a “morning”, small talk about the weather and now we’ll chat about last night’s TV and what’s in the news. I’m even on first name terms with Mike, Jason, Chris and Melissa.

The fine for using a standard class ticket in first class is £50. A first class ticket at peak times is an extra £10 per journey, so unless I get caught more than once a week, it’s cheaper to just pay the fines instead.

The day a ticket inspector eventually catches me will be interesting. When I get fined £50 for that journey, will my new Thameslink friends tell him that I owe another £50 for each of the other days I’ve dodged the first class fare? It’s not like I can claim to have had a first class ticket on the other days because my standard class season ticket is a monthly.

It is strange that for months now, I’ve been catching the same train every weekday and a ticket inspector has NEVER got on. Do my Thameslink traveling companions know something that I don’t? Maybe they don’t have first class tickets either!

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Piccasso

I’m going to give up radio and become an international art thief.

Right now, I’m the Programme Director at Fix Radio in London. The radio station is in Bankside, not far from the Tate Modern. Every lunchtime this week, I’ve been going over there and looking at the art. I’ve started thinking about how hard it would be to steal one of the paintings.

I’ve looked around the back of a lot of them and can’t see wiring or anything that looks like an alarm. It’s also clear that they’re just hanging on the walls without anything securing them. There isn’t always a security person in every gallery, so if I time it right, it wouldn’t be that difficult to just lift a painting off the wall and have it away.

The major problem is getting it out of the building. None of the art is on the ground floor (level 1), the Tate Modern is a former power station, so it’s huge and the combined entrances/exits are a long way from the galleries. There are two security guards posted at each entrance/exit and they seem more interested in me when I’m on my way out than when I’m on my way in.

The rules say you’re not allowed to take in any bag that is, “larger than cabin bag size (55cm x 40cm x 20cm), sports or recreational equipment (musical instruments), large wheelie bags or boxes”, so keeping the painting hidden as I walk out past the guards is the real challenge.

As it’s going to take some time to get it out, it’s important to make sure no one realises it’s missing until I’m long gone, so I’ve chosen a relatively famous painting, one that I can buy a print of, the same size as the original. If no one notices me making the switch, it could take days before anyone realises the original has disappeared. The good news is, I can buy a high quality reproduction from the gift shop in the Turbine Hall on level 0.

The painting I’ve chosen is Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’, which is on level 2. I took a picture of it which you can see above. I also took my tape measure in yesterday and got all of the dimensions. The print I’ll need is 608mm x 500mm. Once I’ve bought the replica, I’ll take it to a framers with my photograph and get them to put it in an identical frame 847mm x 739mm x 86mm.

Now I need two accomplices, one to cause a diversion and the other to play the part of a person with a disability. I’ll get a wheelchair adapted so that there’s a compartment behind the seat, just the right size to slot the replica or the original painting in from the top. It’ll just look like a padded seat back to a security guard.

I’ll place the wheelchair, with Accomplice One on board, in front of the ‘Weeping Woman’, put the brake on and wait for Accomplice Two to “accidentally” knock over the awkward metal sculpture in the gallery next door. The people in the small gallery where the Picasso is hanging, and any security guards, will walk through to the other room to see what all the commotion is about. That’s when accomplice number one will get out of the wheelchair and take the ‘Weeping Woman’ off the wall. At the same time, I’ll pull the replica out from behind the seat and will have it hanging on the wall before Accomplice One slots the original into the back of the wheelchair.

Then I’ll just wheel accomplice number one and the painting to the lift, get out at level 1 and wheel both of them past the security guards at the nearest exit.

The really good news is I’m unlikely to get caught. According to Noah Charney, a scholar and author who’s published multiple books on art theft, “We’re very bad at catching art thieves, we have a very low recovery and prosecution rate: Something like 1.5 percent of cases of art theft see the art recovered and the criminal prosecuted.”

The only flaw in my plan to switch careers is, according to Charney in an article published at Insurancejournal.com, fine art theft is relatively easy but selling stolen art is almost impossible. He said, “People assume that they’ll find criminal art collectors when in fact, we have very few historical examples—maybe a dozen to 20 who fit the bill.” Hundreds of art objects are stolen every year, so those are bad odds.

For my new career to take off, I need to find a buyer in advance, so, wanna buy a Picasso?

Craic on!

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Mack Nuggets

12Nov18

Here’s what I’ve been up to on Fix Radio lately, including;

Fancy Dress, The Movie of Your Life, Mistaken Identity, Neighbours, Animal Attack, Blags and Scams.

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bt

No one likes to be lied to, so it’s especially annoying when someone writes to you and there’s a lie in the first line.

I opened a letter today from Nick Lane, the Managing Director of Customer Care at BT. It said, “Hello Graham, You’re eligible for an ultrafast upgrade. It’s an exclusive deal we’ve made just for you”.

Just for me, really? Out of the 9.28 million UK retail broadband subscribers, Nick Lane has decided that only Graham Mack is eligible for this deal?

The letter goes on, “Get the UK’s first and only broadband with a 100Mb speed guarantee, even at peak times, for a monthly price of only £44.99”. We’re so confident in our connection that we’re putting our money where our mouth is. – if your speeds drop below 100mbps we’ll give you £20 back”.

I’m not sure you understand how basic business transactions work Nick. If I pay you £44.99 for something and you don’t give it to me, I would expect to get £44.99 back, not £20.

To answer the question you asked at the end of your letter, no, I’m not ready for life in the Ultrafast lane, especially when it’s sold to me in this way by the Ultra-dodgy Nick Lane.

If you’re going to send me any more letters like this, you should change the name of your company from B.T. to B.S..

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IMG_6142

I won’t be playing Britain’s favourite Christmas song on the radio.

“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues is consistently voted Britain’s most popular Christmas song but thanks to a ruling by the broadcast regulator, Ofcom, I won’t be playing it on London’s Fix Radio, the radio station for builders and tradespeople.

In August this year, Ofcom upheld a complaint from a listener to my Breakfast Show on BOBfm from back in July. On the air, the operator of a speed camera was described as a ‘scumbag’ by a caller and as a ‘maggot’ by me.

BOBfm was found to be in breach of ‘Rule 2.3 of the broadcasting code which states, “Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…Such material may include offensive language…[or] discriminatory treatment or language”.

By the time Ofcom upheld the listener complaint, I had left BOBfm and I’m now the Program Director at Fix Radio in London.

Ofcom have made it very clear that the words ‘scumbag’ and ‘maggot’ are offensive and not suitable for broadcast. As Programme Director, my first job is to protect the radio station’s licence. ‘Scumbag’ and ‘maggot’ are lyrics that can be clearly heard in ‘Fairytale of New York’. I don’t want to put Fix Radio’s licence in jeopardy so have been forced to remove the most popular song at Christmas time from our playlist. I would warn all other radio stations in Britain not to play ‘Fairytale of New York’ because Ofcom, as the UK’s communications regulator, has set a clear precedent about language that cannot be broadcast. As the exact same words are used in the song, Ofcom will be forced to take action, otherwise they will be seen as inconsistent or biased.”

Read about the original Ofcom ruling here

This morning I heard the DAB radio station, ‘Heart Extra Christmas’ play ‘Fairytale of New York’. Here are some of the lyrics that were broadcast at a time when children could have been listening,

“You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last”

The irony is that they played the song straight after a station ID that said, “Turn up the festive feel-good”. 

Someone should complain.

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Word Up

04Nov18

Words

“I woke up in a Soho doorway, a policeman knew my name”

That’s the opening line of the first verse of The Who song, ‘Who Are You’. It’s a great example of what radio consultants like to call “Word Economy”, the art of saying as much as you can with as few words as possible. It’s a story told in only twelve words.

Most radio presenters would use a lot more words to tell that story. It would go something like this, “I hope your weekend was better than mine. We all like a drink but just lately I think I’ve been overdoing it. I went out in Soho again on Saturday night and by the end of the evening I was a mess. I remember falling asleep in a doorway. I heard this voice calling my name and when I opened my eyes it was a policeman. It was the same policeman that I’ve had a run in with after other big nights out”.  – That’s 83 words to tell the exact same story. Some presenters could tell the story in fewer words but not many can match Pete Townshend’s twelve.

Loads of song lyrics paint a picture and tell a story.

The Beatles, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – “Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been”.
Paul McCartney doesn’t use the word ‘lonely’ till the chorus but it’s right there in the opening line without being said.

The Rolling Stones, ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ – “I met a gin soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis”.
You instantly get a mental picture of that honky tonk woman and the bar.

The Kinks – ‘Come Dancing’ – “He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week all for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek”.
Ray Davies tells you all you need to know about this bloke’s desperate love life.

What about this from Ed Sheeran? The song is ‘Galway Girl’, instead of describing the kind of bar they were in and listing which brands of Irish whiskey, bourbon, stout, and scotch got her drunk and made her dance to Van Morrison, he just says,
She took Jamie as a chaser, Jack for the fun 
She got Arthur on the table with Johnny riding as a shotgun
Chatted some more, one more drink at the bar
Then put Van on the jukebox, got up to dance”

If you’re a radio presenter who plays music and you want to learn all about word economy, listen to the lyrics in the songs you’re playing.

If you still don’t believe you can tell a full and moving story without many words, how about this six word advertisement that was placed in the local newspaper, The Spokane Press, in 1910;

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

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Paris is the city of love, so where better for Julie and I to go and celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary? If you’re planning to visit the most romantic city on earth, I hope this blog will give you some ideas and inspiration for your trip.

After work on Friday night we got on the Eurostar at London St Pancras and two hours and fifteen minutes later we were at the Gare du Nord. We booked a hotel within walking distance of the railway station, so as soon as we got to Paris we could check in without needing transfers.

After breakfast the next morning we headed back to Gare du Nord and got on the Metro. Once you work out the colour coded maps, numbers of the lines and where to change trains, the Metro is really easy to use, and cheap. It costs €1.90 per trip and it’s cheaper if you buy multiple tickets. You can buy ten tickets for €14.90 and they’re on sale from vending machines in every station.image1

We made our way around the city on the Metro and did a lot of walking as well. Most parks in Paris don’t have paved footpaths, they’re more of a fine sandy gravel. If the weather is dry, you’ll notice it on your shoes. Here’s how my black suede boots looked half way through our first day…Shoes

There’s a lot to do in Paris, so you may want to have a plan. We found this to-do list which fluttered down from the Eiffel Tower. List

It’s a very photogenic city, almost every picture you take comes out like a postcard. Here’s an eyeful of the tower I took from Place du Trocadero.Eyefull

If you’re English, don’t make the mistake of ordering a cup of tea. The French can’t make tea. Here’s what we ended up with…Tea Picture

On our first day in town we went to Notre-Dame Cathedral. It’s free to get in but check what’s on that day. We couldn’t go inside because there was a big service going on. They take Catholicism very seriously in France, which is why they’d even booked a “Pope And The Cardinals” tribute act…Pope

Instead, we took a nice walk to the Musée de l’Orangerie and stood in front of “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet…Lillies

When you pay to go to the loo in Paris you don’t, “spend a penny” because they use Euros. What you’re actually doing is “Euro-nating”. These toilets in Paris are so popular they even have a gift shop!Toilet

We started our second day in Paris at the Musee National Picasso. It was free to go in because it was the first Sunday of the month. Inside it’s not just paintings by Picasso, there’s also work by the artists that influenced him like Matisse and Renoir. I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with Rembrandt’s selfie from 1660…Rembrant

The highlight of the trip was at Sainte Chapelle. We’d gone there to see the amazing stained glass windows.

Glass

A bloke in front of us got down on one knee and proposed to his girl. Well, they don’t call it the city of love for nothing!

I hope they’re as happy as we are in 31 years time.

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Hippy Dippy

23Sep18

Meditation

I don’t get yoga, more to the point, I don’t get people who “go to yoga”.

Hey, I like meditation, it’s better than sitting around and doing nothing. – That’s an old joke and I love the truth in it. One of the BEST things about meditation is that it IS sitting around doing nothing. It’s the main reason I like it and why I’m really good at it.

I also like meditation because I don’t need to buy any special equipment, dress a certain way, interact with anyone, show up at a specific place at a specific time, be told what to do by anyone and best of all, I don’t have to do anything physical.

It’s for these reasons that I am repulsed by yoga. Yoga has taken my favourite thing and turned it into everything I hate. To practice yoga you have to buy a special mat, wear ridiculous clothes, join a group, interact with people, bend, stretch and hurt yourself.

On top of that, they even call it a “class”. That brings back traumatic memories of an experience I had in my childhood, SCHOOL!

I don’t want some oddball who regards themselves as superior to me telling me I’m not doing something properly that I already know how to do. Yoga teachers actually tell you how to breath! And when it comes to meditation, which we’ve already established is, doing nothing, my ability in that area is unsurpassed. If doing nothing was a sport, I’d be the world champion.

It’s for these reasons that you will never find me learning how to improve my downward dog, while being told to breath into my right toe by a ponytailed, lentil-eating basket weaver.

Craic on!

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